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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Widow of famous actor discusses probate fight

The widow of Robin Williams, the comedian who recently took his own life while suffering from a form of dementia, recently spoke up about her reasons for filing suit against the trustees of Mr. Williams' assets following his death.

Those Saint Paul, Minnesota, residents who were fans of Mr. Williams may be interested to know that the law suit and subsequent probate fight may have had a lot to do with the handling of personal property that, at least from a financial perspective, had very limited value.

Mrs. Williams claims that she felt forced to file suit because the trustees were interpreting a clause in the trust document related to "memorabilia" to include just about anything in the actor's home that was remotely connected to him. According to the widow, the trustees began to suggest that she would not be able to have even some of her wedding gifts because they were "memorabilia."

She claimed that she filed suit when it became apparent that the trustees were ignoring her requests that she keep some of her late husband's personal affects. She says she was ultimately pleased with the result of her case but did not want to file suit in the first place; she only wanted what was rightfully hers as an heir of her late husband's estate.

This case first of all illustrates to Minnesota residents that probate litigation does not necessarily start because a very valuable piece of property is at issue. In the case of Williams' estate, it seems that a dispute over items of sentimental value triggered a court battle that at some points admittedly got very contentious. Minnesotans need to be mindful that family members often have strong feelings about personal affects and should deal with such property accordingly in their estate plans.

However, sometimes even the most careful planning cannot prevent probate litigation or trust litigation. In such cases, sometimes the best thing a family can do is rely on the experience of a seasoned Minnesota estate litigation attorney.

Source: People, "Robin Williams' widow reveals why she went to court over his estate: 'I had to fight to keep my husband's slippers," Kara Warner, Nov. 8, 2015.

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