Robin Williams’ Trust Bans Use of His Image for 25 Years

Robin Williams Trust

March 31, 2015

The Robin Williams Trust, filed Wednesday as an exhibit in connection with the division of his personal property, reveals that the late actor decided to prohibit the use of his likeness for 25 years after his death.

Documents revealing his wishes have recently become public as a result of a separate dispute between his 3 children (Zelda, Zachary and Cody) and wife Susan Schneider, documents revealing his wishes have become public.

Williams, who committed suicide last August at the age of 63, created a trust that transfers all public rights to his likeness (name, voice, signature, photograph, etc.) to a nonprofit organization. This prohibits others from using his image in future movies (through digital technology), advertisements and any other public outlet.

This means you probably won’t be seeing a hologram of Robin Williams performing stand-up comedy, anytime soon.

 Michael Jackson hologram performance. Via

The Windfall Foundation, a California nonprofit corporation formed by his attorneys, has exclusive rights to use his name and image until August 2039.

Williams’ motivation was two-fold: (1) save on taxes and (2) protect his legacy.

Tax Savings

The most obvious reason Williams may have decided to take this action is to save his family millions on estate taxes. Case & point – Michael Jackson’s estate. According to the IRS, Jackson’s estate owes over $500 million in taxes (plus an addition $200 million in penalties) arising from the valuation of his publicity rights. Jackson’s estate and the IRS are currently battling out the details of exactly how to categorize the singer’s publicity rights in the U.S. Tax Court.

By assigning his rights to the Windfall Foundation, Williams can live on posthumously and avoid millions in taxes for his family. Should the IRS not find the foundation eligible for the tax deduction, William’s rights will be distributed to other organizations that do qualify and serve a similar mission.

Legacy Protection

Another apparent reason Williams decided to take a unique approach to his public image is to protect his legacy and privacy. Laura Zwicker, estate planning attorney, said that William’s action is interesting, “I haven’t seen that before. I’ve seen restrictions on the types of uses — no Coke commercials for example — but not like this. It could be a privacy issue.”

Williams’ action is good news for his estate who is currently battling out a separate issue. Schneider and William’s 3 children disagree over who owns different items from the actor’s San Francisco home. According to Schneider’s lawyer, she wants to keep their wedding gifts, his tux and photos from his 60th birthday celebration.

The Robin Williams Trust in Full



Topics: ,