Kaplin Stewart

A closer look at the unique estate plan of the late Robin Williams

Much of the news coverage concerning the estate of the late Oscar winner Robin Williams this past week was dedicated to the ongoing legal battle between the late comedian’s wife and his three children from another marriage.

As newsworthy as this was, it also served to limit the discussion of the rather innovative steps taken by Williams to protect his privacy and limit the potential tax liability of his family members.

The terms of the Robin Williams Trust, revealed last week, expressly dictate that his right of publicity is to be protected from any sort of commercial exploitation for 25 years, meaning the earliest that anyone will see him in advertisements or even performing as a hologram would be August 11, 2039.

According to legal experts, Williams was able to accomplish this feat by leaving the rights to everything from his name and photograph to his likeness and signature to a charity called the Windfall Foundation that he established with the help of his legal team.

Aside from taking steps to protect his legacy and honor his charitable intentions, legal experts have also pointed out how the Robin Williams Trust also contained the relatively novel clause dictating that should the Internal Revenue Service disqualify the Windfall Foundation for a charitable deduction, his publicity rights should instead pass to other qualifying charitable organizations like Make-a-Wish.

What this does, say experts, is limit the size of the federal tax bill that could otherwise accompany the income generated by these rights, which would undoubtedly be substantial.

If you would like to learn more about how you can take steps to protect your assets and ensure that your final wishes are honored, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, “Robin Williams restricted exploitation of his image for 25 years after death,” Eriq Gardner, March 30, 2015