Family Fight over Robin Williams' Estate Shows How Loss Can Turn Bitter

The world was stunned when comedian Robin Williams took his own life, and now the tragedy is taking another sad turn. His family is now in a dispute over his estate, with third wife Susan petitioning the court to recover personal property removed by his children Zachary, Zelda and Cody. 

A trust created by Williams prior to his death gave Susan a home in Tiburon, California, as well as all of its contents. However, the trust also had a clause granting the children items such as personal photos taken before their marriage, clothes, jewelry, memorabilia and entertainment awards. The claimed Williams' collections of Japanese anime figurines, graphic novels, antique weapons, theater masks, carved boxes, skulls and other eclectic items, but Susan claimed those items fall under the category of "knick-knacks" and should go to her. She also said she doesn't want Williams' watches included with the jewelry that the children recieve.

Making Loss Even More Painful

Loss is always hard to deal with, and when it's a suicide, the pain is compounded and mixed with confusion and hurt. Disputes over material goods get in the way of the grieving process and create rifts among the survivors that often cannot be healed. According to WebPsychology, anger is one of the phases in the typical stages of grief. Survivors are angry about the loss and may also be upset at the deceased person for leaving them, particularly in a suicide. In cases where there's a fight over the estate, that anger often fuels bitter words and actions.

You can help avoid such problems among your heirs by working with an experienced wills and trusts attorney. The American Bar Association provides information on wills and trusts, as well as tips about finding the right attorney.

Keeping the Peace

If you're one of the survivors, weigh the value of the material goods against the cost of destroying family relationships. If mementos rather than money are at stake, consider whether there are other ways to remember and honor your lost loved one. It might mean the world to you to get your grandmother's special ring or your father's coin collection, but if that's not possible, buy yourself a special piece of jewelry and wear it in Grandma's honor or start a coin collection from scratch with your child and share memories of your father as you work on it together.

When you lose your loved one to suicide, organizations such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Survivors of Suicide offer valuable resources and help you find support groups.