Robin Williams was an American actor and stand-up comedian. He won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and he also received two Emmy Awards, six Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and four Grammy Awards. He starred in critically acclaimed movies, such as "Good Will Hunting" and "Good Morning, Vietnam." The actor died, reportedly a suicide, on Aug. 11, 2014.
Robin Williams' Net Worth
Williams left behind an estate estimated somewhere between $50 and $100 million. The estate is divided among many asset classes, including real estate, art and investments. The estate is comprised of such physical assets as a Napa Valley mansion listed at $29.9 million and a $5 million house in Tiburon, California.
In addition, his image licensing, as in most situations with deceased celebrities, would normally provide the estate the opportunity for additional earnings. However, Williams put a restriction clause in a trust agreement that bars anyone from using his likeness for 25 years after his death. This means that the future earnings of his estate are limited, and his surviving children only have access to the current dollar value.
Robin Williams' Estate
Those who have claim to Williams' estate have been fighting over it as recently as October 2015, over a year after the actor's death. Williams' widow, Susan Schneider, and his three adult children battled in court over the outcome of his estate.
Schneider reported that she was not receiving enough money to maintain the home in Tiburon, California, where she lived with her husband before his death. On the other side, Williams' children claimed their stepmother was trying to adjust the terms of their dad's trust.
The fight continued until Schneider finally agreed to remove her petition to keep most of her late husband's belongings. This allowed the estate to be split rather simply. Schneider was able to keep the possessions that held emotional value for her, such as wedding gifts, clothing, a watch and a bike. The actor's children then received almost everything else they requested, including more than 50 bikes, 85 watches and over 1,000 individual items, such as Williams' Academy Awards and the actor's clothing.
The exact terms of the agreement were not reported, but lawyers close to the case said that Schneider will receive enough support to continue living in the Tiburon home during her lifetime. The Williams children, however, will eventually own the property.
The Future of His Estate
Williams' Napa Valley mansion was originally listed for sale in the summer of 2012 for $35 million. It was subsequently re-listed shortly before the actor's death at a price of just under $30 million. Variety reported that the property eventually sold in 2016 after a series of further price cuts; the 20,000 square foot mansion sold for $18.1 million, roughly half of its original asking price. The purchasers were French wine makers Alfred and Melanie Tesseron.
In August of 2018, Forbes reported that Williams' ex-wife, Marsha Williams, would auction off a large collection of furniture, art, and other Hollywood memorabilia previously owned by the actor and comedian. The auction will take place in the fall of 2018 and will be overseen by Sotheby's, with proceeds going to charities including the Wounded Warrior Project, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
The restrictive clause that Williams put in place to protect his image licensing means that his family cannot profit off of his likeness until 2039. This prevents his name, photograph, voice or signature from being used in any film, advertisement or endorsement.
This puts a large cap on the future value of his estate. Estates of other entertainers have been able to charge as much as $500,000 for the use of entertainers' images in advertisements. A few outlier deals have topped $1 million. Estates of deceased entertainers, such as James Dean, earn royalties on clothing sold with the entertainers' likenesses on it.
The Fast and Furious movie "Furious 7" used a patchwork strategy to recreate Paul Walker, who died in 2013 during the filming of the movie. The seventh movie in the series went on to earn over $1.5 billion, making it the fifth-highest grossing movie in box office history. For the use of Walker's likeness in the recreation of his character, his estate received an estimated $10 million.
This highlights how lucrative image licensing can be for deceased celebrities. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) once reported, in another example, that Michael Jackson's estate owed $700 million in taxes, based on the estimated value of his likeness and intellectual property. If the holders of Williams' estate had access to licensing, they could increase their financial benefits.