Robin Williams’ Suicide Effect on Estate Value

Recent headlines announcing the death of comedian/actor Robin Williams shocked the nation. However, perhaps the most startling aspect of this news is the nature of his death. Although past celebrities have died from drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, and other self-destructive methods, these types of deaths are easier to brush off as accidental—whether true or not. In Williams’ case, evidence indicates that he purposely took his life. For some people, death by suicide is simply inexcusable. Based on his untimely death and public scrutiny, how does this affect his estate’s value?

As one of the most charismatic actors in the entertainment world, Williams enjoyed a large fan base and many career opportunities spanning four decades. His career began as a stand-up comedian, which gained him notoriety and led him to the acting world. He tackled all types of acting including film, television, and theater. And he was good—so good that he earned numerous awards including Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, Grammys, and Screen Actor Guild awards. His movies grossed $6 billion, with him as the lead character in more than half of those films.

At the time of his death, Williams’ net worth was valued at $50 million. Despite rumors that Williams was broke and forced to sell one of his homes and work on a television series, his estate likely still held value. Williams appeared in more than 100 movies and television shows, many of which are likely still earning royalties. At the time of his death, Williams had completed four movies that had yet to debut. In light of his death, these films may actually fare better as people grab an opportunity to pay him tribute and get a glimpse of an admired man. Sales of his movies will likely soar in the event of his death. Furthermore, use of his likeness in future material will help bring value to his estate.

While suicide conjures up mixed emotions among the public, the nature of his death has little bearing on his estate’s value. He was a powerful presence in people’s lives throughout the years, as evidenced by the mention of him in social media. In fact, less than a day after his death, Twitter showed 7.3 million mentions of his name. He was too likeable and talented for his death to affect all that he accomplished in life. Those who choose to boycott anything to do with Williams based on the circumstances of his death will be too insignificant to matter. While Williams’ death is truly tragic, his celebrity status and the public mention of his suicide—an often private affair—may help raise suicide awareness. In the meantime, his estate will continue to retain value in many ways.