Celebrity Estate Battles

Families feud long after a loved one's passing

Robin Williams passed away exactly a year ago last week, but the battle for his estate is only just beginning.

It’s the latest squabble involving late celebrities and their grieving loved ones. In many instances, the fighting comes down to dollars and cents. This week, we learned his widow and three adult children can’t come to an agreement over Williams’ estate. The fight is in the lawyers’ hands now as both parties wrestle over the money and property left behind by the popular funnyman.

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The children insist Susan Schneider Williams is trying to increase her share at their expense, while she says the children’s estate math is suspect and wants a third party to settle the matter.

The scenario is all too common and can take sad, strange turns. Here are five other examples of family members battling over a celebrity’s passing.

  • Casey Kasem: The family feud over the radio personality’s fate began long before his death last year. Kasem, who voiced Shaggy in numerous “Scooby Doo!” incarnations, was suffering from Lewy body dementia for years before his passing. Relatives fought over visitation, treatments and where Kasem would stay given his declining health. Six months after his death, Kasem’s body was finally buried in Norway. The decision was painful for his adult children, who insisted he wanted to be buried in the U.S.
  • B.B. King: The blues legend died earlier this year at age 89, but two of his daughters insist he was murdered. They allege members of his inner circle, including business manager LaVerne Toney, poisoned him. A preliminary autopsy found no evidence to support those claims. Toney suggested the daughters were seeking a larger share of their late father’s estate. King’s estate could be worth anywhere from a few million dollars to tens of millions, depending on what member of his family one asks, according to Forbes. King estimated he had at least 15 children from 15 different women, none of them his wife. His residuals given the breadth of his career represent a continuing stream of cash.
  • James Brown: The Godfather of Soul died in 2006, but his estate is still up for grabs. The fund, potentially worth “tens of millions,” was supposed to go to a charity aimed at giving scholarships to needy kids, the New York Times reported. Instead, the estate is the subject of an ongoing legal fight as of late last year, with family members and a woman he considered a wife contesting a will that largely left them out. “This thing could go on for an eternity,” former Brown tour manager Alan Leeds told the Times. Because of the family infighting, his body was actually moved 14 times before he was buried in South Carolina, the New York Daily News reported.
  • Walt Disney: The squabbling over the entertainment mogul’s estate continues despite the fact that Disney died nearly 50 years ago. The most recent entanglement involves Disney’s grandchildren, who are sparring over $400 million in a grand legal battle with plenty at stake. Contrary to urban legend, Disney was cremated, not frozen, after his death.
  • Gary Coleman: The “Diff’rent Strokes” star suffered from congenital kidney disease during his turbulent life, which ended in 2010 at the age of 42 after a fall. When he died he was nearly broke, but that didn’t prevent two people in his inner circle from battling over his estate. A Utah judge eventually ruled against Coleman’s ex-wife, Shannon Price, who sought both his estate and ashes. The estate consisted of a mortgaged home and some residuals, but according to Forbes she sought his ashes so she could wear some in a locket. The judge determined Price had abused Coleman during their time together and did not warrant his meager estate.

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