When Robin Williams departed this world in 2014, it was the culmination of a legendary film career filled with classic characters he delivered so poignantly to our hearts. Since then, heartfelt tributes from celebrities and fans alike poured in. As we celebrate his legacy, we also discuss the aftermath of how people reacted — and that includes some minor disputes that arose in regards to his fortune.
Robin Williams is one of the most beloved actors and comedians of all time, elevating countless classic films such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, and Good Will Hunting. His comic influence has always been lauded by his peers, and when the news came that he had passed away at 63, the world was overcome with a loving sadness.
In addition, an endless stream of tributes poured in, filling in the gaps of a legacy that was already so rich to begin with. However, amidst all this positive outburst of love, those closest to him are having trouble dealing with some of the major assets he left behind.
According to the finance website Investopedia, Williams had a net worth of roughly $50-$100 million before he died. This fortune is an accumulative assessment of art, properties, investments, and of course residual checks from his work as an actor. However, while this wealth seems substantially large, it won’t be available for access — or at least not all of it.
Due to a restriction clause that Williams signed before passing, his image licensing is prohibited from use for a total of 25 years after his death. That means his kids won’t be able to benefit from any future income that their father’s image might have been able to generate in the media, from merchandising to magazines using his photo. That being said, he certainly didn’t leave his children with nothing.
Before he passed away, Williams set up a trust fund for his three kids, Zach, Zelda, and Cody, that they could access periodically throughout their lives. Under its original terms, each child turns 21, they would be entitled to one third of it, and when they turn 25, they would be able to access half of it.
Finally, when his children reach the age of 30, they’d be able to access the entirety of their share in the trust fund Williams left for them. This was all fine and dandy, but even the large trust fund didn’t comprise all of Williams’ wealth. There was still a lot more money at stake, and things got complicated over who would get to receive it.
After his death, Robin Williams had a large amount of wealth that his loved ones needed to divide, and it was unclear who should get what. Although he did leave a will, Williams’ kids were claiming that their stepmother, Susan Schneider Williams, was trying to adjust the terms a little bit.
She and Robin had been living in his Tiburon, California mansion before he passed, and now she was claiming she didn’t have the adequate funds to maintain it. She petitioned that she should be entitled to much more of Williams’ possessions. That claim eventually fell through, and the original trust agreement remained. So what exactly did everyone end up receiving?
Robin Williams naturally had many prized possessions, with both monetary and emotional value. Some of these mementos included his unique collection of bikes, watches, and fossils. But the biggest asset, of course, was his $30 million home in Tiburon, California. Eventually his adult children were entitled to the house, provided that his wife could keep living in it, and would be given enough money to maintain it for the rest of her life.
In addition, his children were bequeathed the main chunk of his possessions, including over 50 bikes, 85 watches, his clothes, and his numerous accolades (six Golden Globes, two Emmys, four Grammys, and one Oscar). His widow Susan received a small fraction of these items, in particular the sentimental ones connected to her and Robin’s wedding. Yet either way, the house was about to get sold.
Eventually Robin Williams’s children and wife decided to sell the Tiburon mansion. According to Variety magazine, the 20,000 square foot home was purchased in 2016 for $18.1 million by French winemakers Alfred and Melanie Tesseron. Speaking of the late comedian’s wives, the public would hear from another one after his passing.
In August of 2018, Robin’s second wife, Marsha Williams, decided to auction off a massive collection of furniture, art, and other Hollywood memorabilia that he owned. It was reported that around $6 million was raised, money that was then given to various charities. These good deeds would be echoed in another way: by the incredible outpouring of tributes Robin Williams received in the wake of his passing.
Countless celebrities came out and expressed their grief following the death of Robin Williams. Legendary comedian Steve Martin tweeted, “I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul,” while director Steven Spielberg called Williams a “lightning storm of comic genius.”
Ben Stiller, Williams’ co-star in the fantasy film Night At The Museum, told a story about how Williams had raised his spirits when he was 13. Stiller’s parents (famed comics Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara) had taken him to a comedy club, with Williams seated behind him, chanting repeatedly, “Stay close to your mother you’ll be safe!” Stiller said of that moment, “It was sort of like the end of the world. I never forgot it.” But if he had this impact on his colleagues, he left an even more indelible mark on his closest friends.
While Robin Williams had an impact on countless individuals, his closest friends were particularly impacted, one of whom was fellow comedy actor Billy Crystal. Not long after Williams died, Crystal recalled an eerie story that took place a few months beforehand. “I hadn’t seen him in about four or five months at the time, and when he got out of the car I was a little taken aback by how he looked,” he told Vanity Fair in an interview.
“He was thinner and he seemed a little frail.” Crystal recalled that his friend had seemed quiet, and was possibly holding back words. When he asked Williams what was wrong, the reply was, “Oh, I’m just so happy to see you.” It was Williams’ ability to relate to just about anyone that endeared him to yet another kind of person.
It wasn’t just celebrities who had substantial encounters with the Patch Adams star. On Reddit, one user recounted a time when they bumped into Robin Williams at a doughnut shop, while they were mourning the loss of two loved ones. Robin had noticed how sad they all were, and walked over to their table and made them all smile and laugh for the “first time in weeks,” according to the Reddit user.
The poster additionally wrote, “It wasn’t that he was a celebrity, he was just being a nice guy who saw a bunch of sad folks and realized he could probably make a difference.” Beyond his talent at comforting those in need, Williams also had an uncanny knack for diffusing tension.
Another Reddit user recalled a story of Robin Williams which took place at a classy Italian restaurant. This person had been out with his father and a couple of his co-workers when things started to get heated with a nearby waiter. He wrote, “A few of the co-workers got drunk and started to scream at the waiter in Italian.” Once the other waiters got involved, it became a very uncomfortable fiery shouting match.
Out of nowhere, Robin Williams stepped in and made everything better. According to the user, Williams was “gesticulating wildly and screaming mock Italian at both sides until they calmed down.” He simply had a way with people — whether one on one, or in a different format.
Not many people knew that Robin Williams was an avid gamer, and that World of Warcraft was one of his favorite games. After his death, the online game incorporated a tribute to him by creating a character in the form of his Genie from the Disney classic Aladdin.
On Twitter, the company wrote this sentimental message to him: “Thank you. You gave us so much joy in our lives, and we hope you enjoyed your time in our world. We’ll see you in-game.” This particular character even had the Genie’s memorable phrase — “infinite cosmic power!” — in his vocal repertoire. It seemed everywhere fans looked, there were reminders of Robin’s impact on the world.
Everyone loves Robin Williams’ Genie from the 1992 Disney cartoon Aladdin. From his signature one-liner catchphrases to his bombastic personality, he was just a force of energy unlike anything fans had ever seen before. But just when we thought we’d seen everything this character had to offer, Disney gave us a little gift.
After Williams’ passing, Disney released unseen footage of him ad-libbing lines for the Genie while in the studio, and improvising scenes not seen in the film. Not everyone knows this fact, but the character of Genie had actually been created specifically for Robin Williams. This fact would reflect greatly on yet another aspect of his legacy.
The monumental success of Robin Williams’s Genie in Aladdin started a trend all around Hollywood for celebrities to become voice actors, which hadn’t been the case before. Scott Meslow, a writer for The Atlantic, wrote in 2011: “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors — people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters.”
But Williams made voice acting look like the funnest thing in the world to do! It would be hard to overstate the influence this had on big time actors like Mike Myers and Tom Hanks, who used their cartoon portrayals of the titular character in Shrek and Toy Story’s Woody, respectively, as their own personal canvases of pure expression. And while he brought joy to generations of kid viewers, one young man in particular truly felt his kindness.
Four months after his passing, a video was released showing us just how kind Williams was. The clip had been taken seven months previously, and it showed Williams helping out his 17-year-old co-star Skyler Gisondo. The task? Skyler wanted to ask a girl out to his prom.
In the aftermath of it all, Gisondo recalled how kind and humble the seasoned actor had been, asking the young star what he was allowed to say in the video: “He was saying ‘Can I say this? Would it be appropriate to say this?’ You’re Robin Williams. You can say whatever you want!” He had always had a special way of communicating with kids; just ask his own.
Another thing that’s changed since Williams’ passing is that his children have shown the world just how good of a father he was, in their own words. It’s never easy to lose a parent, but in the aftermath of the tragic circumstances of their father’s passing, they’ve been contributing to the world in all kinds of important ways.
Zachary, his 33-year-old eldest, teaches finance to inmates in prison, believing that his dad would’ve “loved the program.” Zelda, Williams’ only daughter and an actress in the public eye, uses her elevated platform to show the various charities and benefits she participates in. While their father had been devoted to the greater good in life, even after his passing, he made change in a new way.
It’s certainly not easy to talk about, but a driving force behind Robin’s death was a medical condition called Lewy body dementia. While people are still heartbroken that he’s no longer with us, they can at least take solace in the fact that awareness for the illness has skyrocketed since.
Even though it’s a very surprisingly common illness, it’s also difficult to diagnose, which is why it’s not as well-known as one would think. However, Williams’ widow Susan has said that her husband’s death “created more interest and coverage on this frequently misdiagnosed condition than ever before.” In addition, people have grown increasingly interested in what made the man himself tick.
When the now legendary actor was first starting out as an up-and-coming comedian, he had just left Juilliard, one of the world’s most prestigious performing arts schools. However, it wasn’t as if Hollywood producers were simply handing out acting gigs on the corner of the street. Williams was forced to pay his dues, and find gigs in the unlikeliest places — like the church, for instance.
He had seen a flyer for a Lutheran church that was holding stand-ups in their basement, and jumped at the opportunity. He would later recall this period to NPR, saying, “It was just like improvising but solo. And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ I started building an act from there.” And once he got into the Hollywood scene, he started forming friendships with all kinds of people.
Robin Williams’ impact was felt not just on his fellow humans — but animals as well. Hanabiko “Koko”, the famous primate who made headlines with her extraordinary levels of functionality, apparently connected with Williams on a deep level, and was very saddened by his passing. Williams had visited her back in 2001, at the Gorilla Foundation which is based in San Francisco, and said of the occasion, “We shared something extraordinary: laughter.”
Over a decade later, when Koko learned about what had happened to her dear friend, it was reported that she had visually become very sad. Williams was seemingly everywhere while he was alive — a fact we remembered all too well when this movie came out.
Not many people know that Robin Williams was an avid lover of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter world. In fact, he desperately wanted to be in the movies, and apparently there were multiple roles he was itching to play. But since it was important to Rowling that all the actors be British, Williams was respectfully denied.
However, this wouldn’t have been an issue with the subsequent spin-off Fantastic Beasts film series — because this new magical world was now based in New York City. However, while this would’ve been a perfect opportunity for Williams to finally get his own wand, he had sadly already been taken from us by the time the movie was getting made. Thankfully, he’d left us this gem.
Mrs. Doubtfire is considered to be one of Williams’ most memorable roles, which is certainly saying something. He plays the role of Daniel, a San Francisco father separated from his children who goes so far as to masquerading as an English (but Scottish-accented) elderly housekeeper just to be closer to them.
Williams’ co-star in the film, Lisa Jakub (who plays his daughter Lydia), was only 14 when they filmed — and ended up getting kicked out of school because of how many classes she’d missed in real life. Williams wasn’t happy about this, and sent a letter to the school, maintaining that “she is an asset to any classroom.” The school ended up framing the letter, and Lisa forever remembers how he had her back. Perhaps this is because Robin Williams knew what it’s like to be a struggling young actor.
One of the reasons Robin Williams is such a beloved actor is because of his eclectic array of talents. He was simply a born entertainer, and nowhere is the proof of his range more apparent than one of the brilliant ways he launched his career. While Williams was attending Juilliard in New York City, he was forced to pay his dues in any way he could — even if it meant performing on the street as a mime.
A picture of him in full mime mode was taken in 1974 by a photographer named Daniel Sorine. Although Williams wasn’t famous at the time, his talent was certainly detected. As Sorine said, “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity.” But as talented as he was, landing his first big break almost never happened.
Those who know Robin Williams from his earliest days know that his breakout role came as the Martian named Mork from the Happy Days spin-off series Mork and Mindy. However, Williams wasn’t even originally the first choice to play Mork. When Mork first got introduced, it was in what Happy Days actor Anson Williams called “the worst script in the history of Happy Days.”
Apparently the original Mork actor agreed with the sentiment, because he quit. That led the casting team to look elsewhere for fresh blood. Once they hired Robin Williams, he transformed the character into something truly larger than life, inspiring them to create a whole new show just for him. But even after his success, Williams never forgot how hard it was starting out. As such, he never backed down from helping out his fellow young actors.
In the 1989 classic film Dead Poets Society, Williams portrays John Keating, an unconventional English professor yearning to inspire a special group of students. One of those students is played by a young Ethan Hawke — and let’s just say Williams’ brilliance didn’t stop when the director yelled “cut”. Apparently Williams jokingly hazed Hawke throughout the filming, causing Hawke to laugh out loud even while he was trying to be a serious actor.
Hawke recalled, “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane he got.” Funnily enough, Hawke thought Williams didn’t like him! but on the contrary, Williams respected him so much that he helped Hawke secure an agent who lasted him his entire career. Dead Poets Society also played a big part in helping the world after Williams’ death.
Once the world learned of Robin Williams’ passing, his fans didn’t waste any time jumping into action. Secret Cinema, a London-based film screening company, announced a last-minute screening of Dead Poets Society less than 48 hours after the tragic news had been released.
They also encouraged other cinemas around the world to do the same, to honor the legacy Williams left behind. This resulted in 11 additional screenings of the film in five separate countries, culminating with poetry readings, live music, and celebrity appearances (Amanda Palmer, Ross Noble). Altogether, the events raised $31,000 in funds, which were all subsequently donated to mental health aid. And then came the physical tributes.
The Good Will Hunting star was a local resident of Paradise Cay, a town in Marin County, Northern California. The residents of this town decided to honor Williams in a way that they’d be reminded of every single day: by naming a tunnel after him. Up until that time, the tunnel had been called Rainbow Tunnel, aptly named for the little rainbows that could be seen above the entrances.
These rainbows also served another purpose in the town’s decision to rename it after him. Julie Wainwright, his neighbor and the mastermind behind this plan, explained that in addition to being a callback to Mork’s suspenders, the rainbows “personify Robin in that he was so playful, fun, accessible, alive and colorful.” It’s a fitting tribute to one of the most vibrant personalities ever to strike the acting world.
Sources: Investopedia, Telegraph, Mental Floss