Hollywood Star’s Will in Dispute
26 February 2015 by James Bird
The Hollywood actor Robin Williams died in August 2014 leaving an estate estimated to be worth about £30 million. At the time of his death he was married to Susan, his third wife and had three children from his previous marriages.
An intense legal battle is now taking place about how the actor’s Will should be interpreted. In it he stated that his wife should receive the family home in Tiburon, California – worth just under £5 million – and the contents in it. He also stated that his children Zak, Zelda and Cody should receive, amongst other things, his clothing, jewellery, memorabilia and the awards he received from the entertainment industry. This would include the Oscar he received for “Good Will Hunting”. The argument now is over what items are included within these definitions and also whether any of these items, which are at the Tiburon property, should pass to Susan or to the children.
This is a perfect example of how important it is for clarity in any Will. When making a Will you can simply leave all of your estate – to include all your personal items – to any beneficiaries without specifically itemising anything. Alternatively, if there are specific objects you wish to pass to a particular person then a clause can be entered into the Will stating this. This would be legally binding and, if you still owned the item on your death, the gift must then be made – although it would be open to the beneficiary to refuse it if they wished to do so. It would give you certainty that any item would go to your chosen beneficiary upon your death. A third option is to simply write a letter of wishes to be kept with your Will. It would state who you wish to receive particular personal effects but it is not a legally binding document – it would be up to your executors to carry out your wishes. The benefit of this last option is that the letter can be amended or updated at any time thus removing the need to alter your Will with the resulting cost.