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Judge orders parties Robin Williams probate case to try settling

An update to the probate dispute between Robin Williams’ wife and children shows how these cases can take months to resolve. The judge presiding over the case has ordered the parties to try to work out their differences over the next eight weeks.

To recap, sometime after Williams’ death in August, a dispute over some of his personal property arose between his adult children and their stepmother. The children took items from one of Williams’ two homes, over the stepmother’s objections. She later filed a petition asking for the court to intervene.

The issue largely appears to be how to interpret a phrase in Williams’ trust. The trust states that the children receive “the tangible property located in Napa.” Williams’ widow contends that this means the children are entitled to personal property from Williams’ home in Napa only, and not items from the house she and Williams shared in another city. On March 30, the wife told reporters that the children “gutted” the house.

The children responded that “tangible property” only limits what they are entitled to in the Napa home -- in other words, they will not inherit the house itself. Thus, the phrase does not mean they should not receive personal property from the other house.

The judge’s decision to delay executing Williams’ will for at least two months went against the objections of the estate’s trustee. One of the trustees said that doing so would lead to a public listing of Williams’ personal property, which he did not want.

The parties now will try to negotiate a settlement. If they are unable to do so informally, they may use mediation. If they cannot reach a deal by June 1, the case may go to trial.

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