Aretha Franklin is reportedly one of the latest celebrities to die without a will. But what happens to your money and assets without one? Buzz60’s Natasha Abellard has the story.
Stars dying without wills? It’s a notion that’s difficult to grasp, particularly when musicians’ estates often continue to generate significant revenue after their deaths.
Yet in some cases, famous faces were just like a lot of us, and despite their millions, put shoring up their finances on the back burner. Aretha Franklin may have been the latest star to pass away without a trust or will, with her four sons filing a document this week in Michigan’s Oakland County Probate Court listing themselves as interested parties in her estate, while her niece Sabrina Owens asked the court to appoint her as personal representative of the estate.
We don’t yet know the fallout of Franklin’s financial scenario, but here’s a look at celebrities who died without wills in place – and the dramas that ensued.
Age at the time of death: 57
Financial status: The singer died April 21, 2016, in an elevator in his Paisley Park compound, and in the absence of his will, scores of claimants emerged, claiming to be his previously-unknown wife, child, sibling or distant relative. After months of legal drama, the Minnesota probate judge overseeing the late Prince’s estate declared in May 2017 that Prince did in fact die without a will, and that his sister, Tyka Nelson, and five half-siblings are the heirs to the multiple millions of dollars he left behind.
Court filings suggest Prince’s estate is worth around $200 million, perhaps more depending on the value of his musical legacy and his famous “vault” of unreleased recordings, though federal and state estate taxes are expected to consume about half the value.
Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide said that multiple would-be heirs to Prince’s estate, whose claims of heirship were rejected, have filed appeals, and that nothing will be distributed that might adversely affect the claims of those with pending appeals, or without a formal court order.
Age at the time of death: 50
Financial status: Jackson’s family initially thought he didn’t have a will, and headed to court. Eventually, courtesy of his lawyers, a will surfaced, signed seven years before the pop star’s death. Upon its discovery, mom Katherine Jackson withdrew her petition asking to be put in charge of her son’s estate.
Jackson’s will named the pop star’s longtime attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain as administrators of the estate. Katherine Jackson was named as a permanent guardian to her son’s three children, Prince Michael I, Paris and Prince Michael II. She was also named a beneficiary of a trust set up by her son. Singer Diana Ross was named a successor guardian for the children and their estates.
But it’s not over. According to Forbes, it may be another year before a final resolution in the estate tax case related to a discrepancy in the value of the late singer’s name and likeness. The slog through tax court has been going on for five years already.
Age at the time of death: 27
Financial status: The soulful Brit, who died in 2011 from alcohol poisoning, was thought to have a will, but ultimately did not. Winehouse’s parents ended up inheriting her fortune, with the singer’s father, Mitch Winehouse, acting as the administrator of her estate. It’s notable that in Amy, the Oscar-winning documentary about the singer, Winehouse was shown to have a contentious relationship with her father. (Mitch Winehouse called the documentary “misleading.”) Winehouse’s estate totaled $4.66 million after debts and taxes, according to the Associated Press. Her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, did not receive anything.
Age at the time of death: 36
Financial status: Here’s a cautionary tale about estate planning: 30+ years after Marley’s death, his heirs were still battling the singer’s estate in court. Marley, who died of cancer in 1981, famously left no written will, and under Jamaican law his estate was to be divided among his wife and 11 children. That meant Marley’s wife, Rita, received only 10 percent of his assets. After years of court battles, Rita and Marley’s family was rewarded with a decision that they were entitled to Marley’s name and likeness.
Marley’s estate has since aggressively defended commercial use of Marley’s likeness, songs and intellectual property through the years. Five years ago the estate sued Richard Booker, Marley’s half-brother, for giving Jamaican tours and coordinating music festivals in his brother’s name. (The case was settled out of court.)
Age at the time of death: 27
Financial status: Hendrix died in 1970 without a will. The fight over his estate went on for more than 30 years. The famed guitarist’s siblings had been feuding since 2002, when their father, Al Hendrix, died and left Jimi’s sister Janie in control of the musician’s $80-million estate. The Washington State Supreme Court upheld the will but the siblings continued battling over the use of the singer’s image. According to Rolling Stone, a settlement was finally reached before a scheduled July 2015 jury trial to determine how much Hendrix Licensing, a company run by brother Leon’s business partner, owed to the Jimi Hendrix estate in terms of damages for sales of unauthorized merchandise.
Age at the time of death: 62
Financial status: Bono’s death came as a shock: the entertainer-turned-congressman died in a skiing accident in 1998. His wife, Mary Bono, had to go through probate court to become the executor of her husband’s estate. A love child also appeared (but later withdrew his claim). Ultimately, Bono’s estate was divided between Mary Bono (who became his political successor for 14 years), and his two children, Chaz Bono and Christy Bono Fasce.
Age at the time of death: 27
Financial status: When Cobain died, he left behind a fortune that was estimated in the millions. In recent years, the estimated value has been in excess of $450 million. After the singer’s death in 1994, wife Courtney Love was the primary beneficiary of the publishing rights to his estate, which included almost all of Nirvana’s music, reports CNBC. In 2010, the couple’s then-18-year-old daughter, Frances Bean, took control of her trust fund which was more than a third of the estate. That same year, Love gave up rights to Cobain’s name and likeness for a loan, according to CNBC.
USA TODAY reporter Maeve McDermott contributed to this report.
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2o4a79j