ROBIN WILLIAMS’ DEATH RAISES TRUST ADMINISTRATION QUESTIONS

Famed comedian Robin Williams passed away in August from an apparent suicide. Although his tragic death is raising a variety of social questions, some legal issues have also surfaced. Many in Florida and other states are asking about the future for Williams’ family members, who will have to sort through his estate documents, which include at least two different trusts. It appears that trust administration will play a key role in the execution of Williams’ estate plan, which appears to be fairly comprehensive.

At the time of his death, Williams was married to his third wife. His estate reportedly took a major hit — about $30 million — because of his previous divorces. He also admitted that he was listing his home in Napa for sale because he could not afford to maintain it any longer.

Williams leaves behind that Napa mansion, valued at about $30 million. A waterfront property in California is valued at $6 million. It appears that Williams’ estate has real estate equity of about $25 million, depending on the final sale price of the property. Those real estate holdings are held in a trust with an accountant and a trusted associate listed as trustees.

In addition to those real estate trusts, Williams apparently created a trust for his three children during his divorce from his second wife. That trust was established in 2009, and it is designed to pay out funds to his adult children when they reach certain age milestones. This would have occurred whether Williams was alive or dead, so it appears to have been part of his divorce process rather than a measure taken during estate planning.

Trust creation can be a useful part of estate planning, even for those who do not have major financial holdings. Trusts can be used to transfer ownership of business and real estate assets. Trust fund administration can also serve a joint purpose during a divorce, providing an additional measure of estate planning.

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Written by Luis E. Barreto

Luis E. Barreto

Luis is a probate and guardianship litigator with over 23 years of experience in the field. Determination of heirs, will contests, breaches of fiduciary duty, removal of personal representatives, guardians and trustees are just some of the types of litigation he addresses. In addition, he administers non-contested estates and guardianships.