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5 Celebrities Who Died Without Estate Plans

As estate planning attorneys in Corona and Orange County, we have worked with countless family members of people that passed away unexpectedly and intestate, or without a valid will or estate plan. We’ve seen firsthand the challenges that family members go through in not only handling their grief, but the deceased’s remaining assets when no probate avoidance planning has been done.

With Prince’s recent unexpected passing and the subsequent estate controversy all over the news, the general public is also getting a closer look at exactly what happens when a celebrity, or anyone for that matter, dies without having created a will. Prince, however, is not the first star to lack an estate plan at the time of their death.

We’ve compiled a shortlist of celebrities who did not have wills or trusts when they passed away, and the various problems the lack of planning caused for their heirs.

  • Jimi Hendrix – The legendary rock star’s entire estate went to his father, Al, who in turn left the nearly $74 million fortune to his own adopted daughter and completely cut his biological son out of the estate. Unsurprisingly, the son filed a lawsuit and he and Al’s daughter have faced off in court over the estate several times.
  • Billie Holiday – When the American jazz singer passed away in 1959 she was practically broke. Although she only had a few hundred dollars to her name when she died, her entire estate became the property of her estranged husband, entitling him to receive royalties from her work.
  • Bob Marley – The popular reggae singer passed away in 1981 after an eight-month battle with cancer, leaving behind a widow and nine children. In this case, although the conversation and process may be a bit morbid, any estate planning lawyer would advise terminally ill patients without a will to create one in preparation for the worst-case scenario. After his death, the Marley family engaged in a series of bitter lawsuits over the $30 million estate that Bob left behind.
  • Amy Winehouse – The Grammy Award Winning star unexpectedly died at age 27, leaving behind an estate worth several million dollars and six music companies. Amy’s estate was handed over to her parents. Less than two years later, the music company assets were failing and her parents were forced to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans to cover the cost of dealing with her financial affairs.
  • Tupac – After the rap star was gunned down at only 25 years old, his mother and estranged father engaged in a string of lawsuits and fights over royalties and his remaining estate. Since Tupac’s parents were not married, his father was only entitled to a share of the estate if he could prove that he had provided financial support. Tupac’s mother set up a trust to protect her son’s legacy, worth an estimated $40-50 million, earning around $1 million per year.

Our professional estate planning attorneys in Corona and Orange County have handled the planning of several multi-million dollar estates for clients all across California. Let us provide you and your family with the peace of mind that comes with personalized estate planning with our team of elder law experts. Contact us today to get started!