ByTommy DePaoli, writer at
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Tommy DePaoli

It's been almost six months since Robin Williams' tragic death, and the general public is still reeling. So, imagine the distress of his family as they're left to break up his estate while still grieving.

As if the act of divvying up precious belongings isn't emotional enough, there are now reports that a legal battle has been brewing between Williams' children and his widow, Susan Schneider Williams. According to court documents, the issue essentially boils down to one provision that puts stipulations on Susan's inheritance and may prevent Zak, Zelda, and Cody Williams receiving what they feel is rightfully theirs.

The personal property in question

Susan Schneider Williams and Robin Williams
Susan Schneider Williams and Robin Williams

While the Williams children were reportedly left "clothing, jewelry, personal photos taken prior to his marriage to Susan" as well as "memorabilia and awards in the entertainment industry," Schneider Williams is demanding expenses out of their share to keep up with the costs of her residence.

Robin Williams left her his home in Tiburon, California based on a second trust, the "Susan Trust" that adds additional requests to the children's original trust. The Susan Trust allots her the residence, the contents within it as long as they don't overlap with the kids' inheritance, and enough money for maintenance.

Susan's claim

The Tiburon residence
The Tiburon residence

Susan's argument depends on the second two provisions—the unclear item demands and the added living funds—and her legal team claims that Susan deserves more than she's received. In court, they are arguing they should receive enough to cover the cost of "daily upkeep" in addition to "unexpected renovations and improvements."

Essentially, Susan and her lawyers are demanding all enough cash or property to sustain her for the rest of her life. Again, this money would have to come directly from the children's inheritance if the court rules in Susan's favor.

One problem with this claim, as the children's lawyer points out, is that the Susan Trust has not even been funded yet, so her effort to get paid even more does not immediately appear rooted in finances. As a result, the Williams children are not taking these demands lying down.

The counter claim from the Williams children

The children all together
The children all together

On the other side of the dispute, the children contend that Susan will not allow them in the Tiburon residence to retrieve personal items that are rightfully theirs. According to their account in The New York Times, Susan knowingly blocked them from entering her home, supposedly "out of fear." But now, she still remains unwilling to let them inside, all while bringing in appraisers who are estimating the value of the items the children consider their property.

They are also at odds over which items in the home belong to whom. These sentimental items include graphic novels, personal photos, and memorabilia from bicycles to fossils that the kids associate with their late father. Susan argues that since the "knickknacks" (as she calls them) don't have to do with entertainment and are also in her home, they are rightfully hers. The kids take offense at her reducing these precious items to simply "knickknacks" and claim that Williams drew inspiration from them for his creativity.

Brutal responses from both parties, but is an end in sight?

Robin Williams in 2014
Robin Williams in 2014

Overall, it's an extremely messy situation that only seems to be escalating. Susan allegedly appears unwilling to part with anything in her home, and the children find it inappropriate that she lets in construction workers to complete a $30,000 renovation when they can't even get in to retrieve their belongings.

Across their respective demands, the bitterness between parties really comes out. Susan's lawyer says her demands are "a bucket in of water in a lake" compared to what the kids are receiving (a huge portion of Williams' purported net worth of $50 million). While the tight-knit group of kids find Susan—who they pointedly indicate was only married to Williams for "less than three years"—to be driven by greed.

At the very least, the two estranged parties are both committed to coming to a quick and efficient end to the legal battle, so maybe we'll hear the end of it sooner than we think. But still, what a gut-wrenching task for everyone involved. Robin Williams inspired so much joy in all of us, it's such a shame that his last vestiges are being surveyed and picked apart. I hope it comes to an abrupt end, so everyone has the time they need to grieve.

What do you think about the painfully sad situation? Based on the claims from Robin Williams' children and widow, is one party demanding too much?


How would justice be served to honor Robin's wishes?


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