Judge asks Robin Williams' widow, children to settle estate battle outside courtroom

Robin Williams' wife and children will battle over his personal belongings in probate court

A judge is asking Robin Williams’ widow and his adult children to try and settle their dispute over the late actor’s estate before a court hearing in June.

Susan Schneider Williams filed a petition in December, saying his three children are claiming memorabilia that was bestowed to her. She also claimed some of her husband’s belongings were taken from their Tiburon home without permission.

At a court hearing Monday, the judge asked Williams and the actor’s children to resolve their differences informally and if they couldn’t, to return June 1.

But the fight over the late comedian’s property may ultimately be decided by his trustees.

“Susan’s contention of ambiguity is entirely irrelevant because the trust is clear and unambiguous about who has the 'final and absolute' authority to determine the disposition of the tangible personal property: that power is vested in the trustees,” the actor's trustees, Arnold Kassoy and Joel Faden, said in court documents.

In an email to the Times Monday, Andrew Bassak, an attorney for the trustees, said the entire battle for the legendary comedian’s estate should have been kept private.

“Robin Williams was an intensely private person who had carefully constructed his estate plan to keep it out of public view,” Bassak said. “The trustees are disappointed that Ms. Williams decided to file a court proceeding and to make the terms of Mr. Williams' trust public, as this would have been disturbing to Mr. Williams.”

Attorneys for the trustees say they have finalized their decisions on a majority of the “Mrs. Doubtfire” star’s personal property and have notified the beneficiaries.

What remains is establishing a date to transfer “physical possession” of certain items to the late actor’s wife and children, according to court documents.

The trustees received input from the actor’s wife and children regarding the dispersal of his property.

“Susan’s petition was premature when it was filed,” the trustees argue.

They are now asking the court to dismiss her petition, which they say is moot.

Robin Williams committed suicide in his home Aug. 11.

An inventory of Williams’ personal property at his Tiburon home identified 975 items, according to court documents.

In the months after their father’s death, his children -- Zelda, 25, Zachary, 31, and Cody Williams, 23 -- claim their stepmother spent her time appraising his memorabilia, jewelry and other personal effects for her benefit.

The legal battle centers on the definition of certain words, and what counts as memorabilia from the actor’s career and personal keepsakes.

For example, Susan Williams says in court filings that she would be entitled to the “knick-knacks and other items not associated with his famous persona,” but is not entitled to the suspenders Williams wore on the “Mork & Mindy” show.

But his children argue his knickknacks, which included movie posters and autographed publications, fueled his creativity and therefore are theirs, according to the filings.

“The Williams children are heartbroken that petitioner, Mr. Williams’ wife of less than three years, has acted against his wishes by challenging the plans he so carefully made for his estate,” they said in court documents.

Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

4:57 p.m.: This story has been updated with more details from Monday's court hearing and comment from an attorney for Robin Williams' trustees.

11:48 a.m.: This story has been updated with the hearing's postponement. 

This story was first published at 8:18 a.m.

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