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10 Celebs Without Wills: How Did It Affect Families Of These Famous Faces?

Many famous faces did not complete a will, and Tilly Bailey & Irvine Law Firm explain how things can spiral out of control without one….

Planning for your death is often put to the back of your mind, but creating a final will is something that will help you and your family in the long run.

Aretha Franklin
The ‘Queen of Soul’ died in August 2018 aged 76, but without a Will in her name.

Her four sons and other family members are left to discover just what wealth she left behind, before the tricky task of diving up the millions then takes place.

Don Wilson, a Los Angeles lawyer who worked for Franklin for nearly 30 years, said “she never told me, ‘No, I don’t want to do one.’ She understood the need. It just didn’t seem to be something she got around to. I tried to convince her that she should do not just a will but a trust while she was still alive.”

This process could well take years, and will likely play out in public due to her high profile. No conflict has emerged thus far.

Abraham Lincoln
Yes, one of the most famous lawyers of our time and the 16th president of the United States did not even have a Will.

In a detailed account at the University of Michigan Library, it reveals that Justice David Davis estimated Lincoln's estate to be worth $85,000 in his initial filing, likely to be in the millions nowadays.

Under Illinois law at the time, the estate was to be divided equally between Mary Todd Lincoln and children Robert and Thomas. Traditional rules were not the case in Illinois back in 1865, the time of his assassination. Probate was complete in 1867, the value of the estate found to be $110,296.80.

Mary declined widow allowance, while Justice Davis did not take any payment for his services or even reimbursement for his expenses. He handled the estate administration on his own without hiring an attorney, contrary to customary procedure.
Luckily, none of Lincoln's heirs and beneficiaries disputed the results, while Lincoln didn't have any creditors. He died only $38.31 in debt.

Jimi Hendrix
The axe-wielding rock icon died in 1970 without a Will at the mere age of 27. The end result was that father Al inherited everything his son left behind, including his $80 million estate which would become the subject of a little-known 13-year legal battle.

After Al’s death in 2002, tensions boiled between his children and Jimi’s siblings, Janie Hendrix, Jimi’s adopted sister and younger brother Leon Hendrix – Al’s biological son.

Legal battles and a $1.7m lawsuit were the end result as the topic of copyright infringement entered the fray in 2009. The confusion finally ended in 2015, but it could have been avoided before 1970….

Prince not only died without a Will but also without having an estate plan in place, leaving the situation still complicated two years on.

The 57-year-old died without a spouse or children and, since no named executor is named when a Will is not present, the Register of Wills or probate appoint one as they see best fit.
Heirs include his sister Tyka Nelson and five half-siblings, but the issue of discovering how much is at stake remains a legal battle.

Had he created a Will with his intentions in mind, complications could have been less so.

Bob Marley
Despite an eight-month battle with cancer, Bob Marley did not make a Will. This resulted in a series of quite bitter lawsuits, leaving behind an estimated $30 and a large family.

In fact, over 35 years on from his death, his heirs are still battling and under Jamaican law and his estate is divided among his wife and 11 children. As a result, Marley’s wife Rita receives just 10% of the assets.

Martin Luther King
The American activist and civil rights leader was assassinated in Tennessee in 1968 at the age of 39, with no Will to his name.

In this case, the tale of King’s death was of course an unexpected scenario. The reality of what followed was his estate was automatically left to his four children and widow Coretta Scott King.

Her death in 2006 and that of their eldest daughter Yolanda a year on left the remaining three children involved in disputes over the estate which continue even 10 years on.

Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning in 2011 and did not have Will, despite initial thoughts.

Her parents inherited her fortune, father Mitch Winehouse acting as administrator of her estate which totalled $4.66m after taxes according to the Associated Press.

Tupac Shakur
Another unexpected death at just 25, Tupac Shakur was gunned down which resulted in multiple lawsuits.

With no Will, feuding began over royalties and his unmarried parents battled over the rapper’s estate. California law applied, his absent father entitled to a share only if it could be proved he had provided financial support and was in a relationship. His mother did however set up a trust to protect his legacy, which is said to be worth in the region of $40-50m.

Rik Mayall​
Comedian and unhinged star of The Young Ones, Rik Mayall died unexpectedly in 2014 without a Will at the age of 56.

His family therefore faced a substantial tax bill on his £1.2m estate. Rules around intestacy changed in October 2014 however, his death coming four months prior. Where a married parent dies without a will, a portion of their assets go straight to their children, triggering a potential tax liability.

Had he written a will in which all the money went to his wife, no tax would be payable. His wife would then be able to add his "nil rate band" to her own, creating a combined £650,000 couples' allowance.

Pablo Picasso
The Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright died in 1973, but had no Will due to “superstition” and avoiding the topic of death.

Picasso died a multi-millionaire at the age of 91, but left behind some 45,000 works which were complicated by authentications, rights, and licensing deals. Add five homes, $4.5m cash and additional gold, stocks, and bonds and you have yourself a huge struggle to distribute it with no guidance….

Unsure of how to start with your will? Specialist probate solicitors at Tilly Bailey & Irvine can offer impartial, honest and caring advice on all aspects of Wills, Tax Planning, Care, Estates and Powers of Attorney.

If you don’t have a Will or have one that requires updating don’t put it off, call us today on 0333 444 4422 to make a quick and free appointment to review your situation.