In a previous post, the Pennyborn Estate Planning Blog discussed the estate planning complications of subsequent marriages as demonstrated by the litigation that has plagued the estate of movie legend Dennis Hopper. Based on recent court filings, it appears the battle is escalating. At the time of Hopper’s death, he was in the process of divorcing his fifth wife, Victoria. The proceedings were extremely contentious. They shared a child and Hopper also had children from previous relationships. See
Estate Planning in Subsequent Marriage.
Despite Dennis Hopper having a pre-nuptial agreement with Victoria, as well as a will and trust, Victoria and the trustees representing his estate are engaged in a legal battle that threatens to wipe out his fortune. Shortly after his death, the trustees filed a lawsuit against Victoria seeking recovery of artwork they claim she stole from Hopper before his death. They also sought to have her vacate his property in Venice, California so it can be sold to pay debts of the estate. According to
TMZ, Victoria filed a countersuit against the estate in October of 2010 claiming she is owed 45 million dollars for attorneys’ fees, loss of income, child support, damages for defamation of character, and various other items. Based on previous estimates of the value of Hopper’s estate, this claim by his widow could easily consume the entire estate, leaving no inheritance for his children.For individuals considering remarriage or already in a blended family, the Hopper estate litigation should serve as a red alert to consult an estate planning attorney before walking down the aisle and keep
estate planning documents updated throughout the marriage.If you wish to leave any kind of inheritance for your children, you must be diligent in understanding what your new husband or wife is entitled to receive from your estate according to state law. The next step is to execute the necessary legal documents to protect your children’s inheritance. You may also need to use other estate planning methods, such as purchasing life insurance, placing assets in trust, gifting, etc., depending on advice from your lawyer.While Dennis Hopper did attempt to protect his assets from his new wife, it appears the only way he may have avoided this legal morass was to avoid the marriage completely. Given the acrimonious relationship between Hopper’s eldest children and his widow, there is little hope of this will and trust dispute being resolved any time soon.Copyright 2020 Pennyborn.com. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Celebrity Estates Earn Record Amounts for Heirs and Beneficiaries
The iconic Marilyn Monroe died nearly 50 years ago, yet last year alone her estate reportedly earned between 4 and 5 million dollars. According to a January 14, 2011 report by the Financial Times, the legal rights to Monroe’s image were recently sold to Authentic Brands Group, a brand development and licensing company. Authentic Brands has indicated it plans to use Monroe’s image on merchandise such as purses, hair styling products, and intimate apparel. Anna Strasberg, wife of the late Lee Strasberg, was the administrator of Monroe’s estate. She is a now a minority partner in the joint venture with Authentic Brands.
According to a Forbes article published on October 25, 2010, Michael Jackson earned a reported 275 million dollars during 2010, more than any other star on its Celebrity 100 List, apart from Oprah Winfrey. Jackson died the previous year, on June 25, 2009. Forbes also publishes an annual list of the Top-Earning Dead Celebrities. The King of Pop’s earnings in the year after his death topped those of any other musician or actor, living or deceased.For someone who has gained notoriety or fame during his lifetime, his estate has a greater opportunity than ever before to make huge sums of money. There is an entire industry built around licensing the rights to the names and likenesses of deceased individuals for use on products and in marketing for a variety of ventures. The image of a deceased star is often used to market products that did not even exist when the star was alive. Would they approve? Would the deceased have agreed to promote some of these products? While estate administrators and the owners of such intellectual property rights often argue they are enhancing a dead star’s image with such use, in many cases, it seems the sole objective is money, regardless of whether the use is consistent with the deceased person’s values. See estate administration.Some of the deceased celebrities that made the Forbes Top-Earning Dead Celebrities List in the past include Kurt Cobain, Elvis Presley, Charles M. Schulz, John Lennon, James Dean, Jimi Hendrix, Tupac Shakur, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., J.R.R. Tolkien, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Marley, Irving Berlin, George Harrison, Theodor Dr. Seuss Geisel, Andy Warhol, Marlon Brando, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Aaron Spelling, Yves Saint Laurent, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Albert Einstein, Michael Crichton, Steve McQueen, Marvin Gaye, Paul Newman, George Steinbrenner, Stieg Larson, and Heath Ledger.In 2016, music legend Prince is expected to be among the highest earning deceased celebrities.Following Aretha Franklin's death in 2018, she is also expected to become one of the highest earning deceased celebrities.
More Celebrity Estates
For more interesting details of celebrity estates, visit our Disinherited page.You can read about Elizabeth Taylor’s legacy and her classic last wishes on our page about Elizabeth Taylor’s Estate.
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