Probate Court Feed

Robin Williams' Wife Dishonors His Trust Through Court Battle

When Robin Williams tragically committed suicide six months ago, he left behind three children from his first two marriages (ages 23 to 31) and a widow of less than three years, Susan Schneider Williams. Unlike many celebrities, Robin Williams took the time to create thoughtful and detailed estate plan, including various trusts to benefit both Susan and his three children. The trust established for his wife, called the Susan Trust, referred to and was consistent with a prenuptial agreement the couple signed in 2011 when they were married.  Robin-and-Susan-Williams

Because Robin Williams' estate plan was carefully crafted, it initially appeared that his heirs would avoid the bitter family squabbles that affect many mixed-marriage families (in Hollywood and around the country). After all, it is his wishes that matter, and because those wishes were seemingly captured through the proper estate planning documents, there should be nothing left to fight about, right?

Not so fast. Within the past 24 hours, the news broke that the Williams family will not be so lucky. Susan, through her lawyers, started legal proceedings just a few days before Christmas. She asked a probate court in California to take jurisdiction over the Robin Williams Trust to interpret various provisions that she feels are in dispute. Robin's three children -- themselves coming from two different marriages -- filed a unified response through their attorneys and opposed Susan's court filing. The battle is on.

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Cory Monteith's Estate Shows How Even Young Adults Need Wills

News of Glee star Cory Monteith's death by cocaine and alcohol overdose on July 13, 2013 stunned his fans across the world.  The heartthrob actor was only 31.  He had struggled with drug addiction since he was a teenager.  Cory_Monteith

Cory's mother attributed his struggles with drugs at an early age due to the lack of a relationship with his father.   In an interview with Good Morning America she said that Cory tried extra hard because he had been "invalidated" by his father.

Cory's father, Joe Monteith, denied this and blamed Cory's mother instead.  He said his job in the Canadian military forced him to be away from home for months at a time, but he tried to maintain a relationship with Cory.  In fact, he says his ex-wife prevented communication and returned Christmas gifts he sent to his son.

It's hard to determine whose side of the story is correct, but there is no dispute that Cory and his father didn’t have a close relationship.  At one point, they went eleven years without seeing each other, until Cory contacted his father about two years before he died, according to Joe's interview in People magazine.  It is interesting that it was Cory who re-established contact, not his father.

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The Tragic Life and Death of The Daughter of Zsa Zsa Gabor and Conrad Hilton, Francesca Hilton

Everyone loves a good rags-to-riches tale.  But Francesca Gabor Hilton’s life followed a dramatically different path.  Born to Hollywood star Zsa Zsa Gabor, and founder of the famed Hilton hotel dynasty, Conrad Hilton, Francesca was raised living in mansions, attending celebrity parties, earning blue ribbons in horse-riding competitions, and jet-setting to Rome and Paris, among other fashionable cities.  But her life was not as idyllic as it seemed.  Zsa-Zsa-Gabor-and-Francesca-Hilton1-300x242

Zsa Zsa Gabor wrote in her autobiography that Francesca was born following a pregnancy that resulted from rape by Conrad Hilton, her husband at the time.  The couple divorced before Francesca was born.  Francesca told the Los Angeles Times in 2007 that she spent Christmases and occasional upscale lunches with her father.  But their relationship was never close. When Conrad died in 1979, he left his only daughter $100,000 out of his estate, with most of the wealth earmarked for charity.  That doesn’t sound too bad, except that Conrad Hilton’s estate was worth about $200 million at the time, including massive Hilton Hotel stock interests.

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Joan Rivers' Estate Planning Was No Laughing Matter

Joan Rivers was widely respected for her sense of humor, work ethic, and willingness to say almost anything for a laugh.  When it came to planning her estate, however, the late comedienne and host of Fashion Police treated the matter very seriously.  Joan-rivers 2

Joan Rivers' last will and testament was signed on November 16, 2011.  A thorough and well-drafted legal document, her will named a living trust as her beneficiary.

Specifically, Joan Rivers, whose full legal name was Joan R. Rosenberg, signed the Rosenberg Family Trust on the same day as the will.  The will directed that all of her estate assets were to be distributed to that trust.

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Using Celebrity Stories Is A Great Way To Bring Up Estate Planning

MarketWatch.com recently featured an interesting article about the benefits that families gain by having the estate planning conversation early.  Not only does it improve family relationships, it helps sets the stage and prepares family members for facing the difficult issues caused by a loved one who ages or passes away.    Trial and Heirs cover 2nd-edition

The article noted how a UBS Wealth Management study recently found that only 43% of affluent Americans felt that having this conversation with their heirs was a pressing issue.  That’s surprising because experts predict that between now and the year 2050, the largest wealth transfer in U.S. history will occur:  a whopping 30 trillion dollars.

The problem is that having this conversation is seldom easy.  Who wants to sit around talking about legal and financial planning for when someone dies or becomes incapacitated?  Most family members are too busy with the stress of their daily work and personal routines to worry about talking to loved ones about death and dying.

While the MarketWatch article includes a couple suggestions, there is one more that we are huge proponents of:  using celebrity stories.  Instead of awkwardly beginning the conversation by asking your loved ones to consider what will happen when you pass away, why not bring up Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Princess Diana, or even Elvis?  These are all celebrities we have recently written about here at Trial & Heirs.

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Could The Amanda Bynes Dilemma Happen In Your Family?

The struggles of former child actress, Amanda Bynes, have been well-documented.  She had numerous brushes with the law, including repeated drunk driving and other drug and alcohol-related charges, reported shoplifting attempts, and even more bizarre behavior — such as setting fire to her pants and dousing her dog with gasoline in the driveway of an elderly neighbor.   Amanda_Bynes

In 2013, her struggles culminated in guardianship/conservatorship proceedings in California, giving her parents the right to make decisions for her as her conservators.  Amanda lived with her parents for the year, and seemed to be doing much better — enrolling in fashion school and avoiding both drugs and legal problems.

After the first year of conservatorship, her parents elected to let the proceedings terminate, restoring Amanda Bynes’s rights to make her own decisions.  They reportedly felt that she had been misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, and her problems instead stemmed from her use of marijuana.  Feeling the drug problems were behind her, Amanda’s parents decided to treat her as an adult and let her live her own life.

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Dispute Over Where To Bury Casey Kasem Teaches Lesson

The famed American Top 40 Countdown DJ passed away in June, at age 82, with a host of medical problems including advanced Lewy Body dementia.  Now, almost four months later, Casey Kasem’s remains still have not been laid to rest.  Casey and Jean Kasem

It’s a tragic story of a feuding family.  And unfortunately, it’s one that won’t likely end any time soon.

Kasem’s wife of more than 30 years, Jean Kasem, wasn’t exactly close with his three adult children from his first marriage.  In fact, Casey’s daughter Kerri Kasem recently said in an interview with Howard Stern that Jean Kasem didn’t like her or her siblings since the time that Kerri was just nine years old.   According to Kerri, Jean would even invent bad deeds that she told Casey the children had done so he would be mad at them.

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