- Prince Died: April 2016 Estimated Worth: $300-$500 Million
- Marilyn Monroe Died: August 1952 Estimated Worth: $27 Million (2016 Value = $246 Million)
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Died: May 1994 Estimated Worth: $43.7 Million (2016 Value = $600 Million)
- Whitney Houston Died: February 2012 Estimated Worth: $20 Million (2016 Value = $21 Million)
- Abraham Lincoln Died: April 1865 Estimated Worth: $85,000 (2016 Value = $1.2 Million) Abraham Lincoln As a lawyer and the sixteenth president of the United States, many will be surprised to learn that Abraham Lincoln didn’t make a will before he died.
Martin Luther King, Jr. As a civil rights activist who faced death threats, it is surprising that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t make a will. And while Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, today his family is still fighting over control of his estate.
Howard Hughes billionaire, Howard Hughes died in 1976. A handwritten will surfaced that was being held by an official of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. Dummar claimed that he had met Hughes at his gas station in 1967 and had driven the billionaire to Las Vegas. A few days later, a mysterious man appeared at the gas station and gave a document to Dummar for safekeeping. The document turned out to be Mr. Hughes’ will, which Dummar then gave to the church official. A trial was held in Las Vegas in 1978 in which a jury determined that the Mormon Will was a forgery. So, in the end, 22 intestate heirs inherited Mr. Hughes’ massive estate.
Bob Marley While it may seem surprising that singer and songwriter Bob Marley—diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 1977 and dying four years later at the young age of 36—didn’t have a will. Apparently, his religious beliefs prevented him from making such a document.
That lack led to an interesting fight over the rights to his estate among his widow, Rita, and thirteen children. Add to the legal brawl that Mr. Marley’s lawyer and accountant convinced Rita to forge some documents after the singer/songwriter’s death, and you have the makings of a movie. The forgeries would give control of the entire estate to her. Marley has been a top-earning celebrity for many years. He earned $20 million between 2013 and 2014 alone. And, as recently as 2011, the Marley estate was in a court battle with Mr. Marley’s half-brother.
Kurt Cobain –American singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain (1967 – 1994),The frontman for the Seattle grunge band, Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1994. He was only 27. But while the singer/songwriter left behind a detailed suicide note, he failed to leave a will. Cobain was survived by his wife, Courtney Love, and a young daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. A trust known as the NMWH Trust was established for the benefit of Frances Bean, and although Love was not in charge of the trust, she was given trust accountings. In 2009 Love lost custody of Frances Bean, then 17, and in 2010 the rights to Kurt Cobain’s name, likeness, and appearance were taken from Love and given to Frances Bean.
Steve McNair, who became famous as an NFL quarterback for the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens, was murdered by a girlfriend in 2009. He was only 36. Mr. McNair left behind a $20 million estate, a wife, and four children, but no will. It may surprise some to learn that under Tennessee’s intestacy laws, McNair’s wife, Jonula “Mechelle” McNair, only received a portion of the estate. The balance went to the two children she had with her husband, as well as two other children McNair had out of wedlock. Others, including McNair’s mother, Lucille, received nothing.
The one big lesson that can be learned from these intestate celebrity estates is that without a will, a big old mess will be left behind. And in many cases, these messes can take years to be sorted out after thousands of dollars are spent in attorneys’ fees. But most importantly, these show that intestacy laws will dictate who gets what, as opposed to what the person would have chosen had he or she taken the time to make a will.
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