The Thriller star and others still making money from beyond the grave.

Forbes recently released its list of the year’s top-earning dead celebrities. As we have written about in the past, all of them had shortcomings in their planning that resulted in the funds not necessarily being used as they intended.

Michael Jackson landed in the number 1 spot, earning $115 million in 2015. We’ve written about Michael Jackson’s estate fighting with the IRS over its value in the past. The executor of his estate said it was worth only $7 million, whereas the IRS valued it at $1.125 billion. Well, it is reported that the King of Pop has earned more than $1 billion, before taxes, since his sudden death in 2009.

Also on the list of top earning dead celebrities was Marilyn Monroe, who landed in the number six spot, having earned $17 million in 2015. She left the bulk of her estate to her acting coach, whose third wife inherited it and then sold it. You can read more about Marilyn’s failed estate planning here.

Another star of interest is actor Paul Walker, who came in at number nine on the list, earning $10.5 million in 2015, largely as a result of the release of Fast & Furious 7. As we noted here, the late actor left his entire estate to his then 15-year old daughter.

At the time of their deaths, all of these stars had a number of shortcomings with their estate plans. For example, all of them failed to keep their plans private through the use of a fully funded revocable trusts – allowing anyone to peer into their lives, and the lives of their families. Michael Jackson and Paul Walker appear to have not put adequate protections on the funds that they left for their children in the event they later get divorced, get sued, or simply have poor management skills. Marilyn Monroe failed to ensure that her estate was only ever used to benefit the people she knew and cared about.

While you may never earn $115 million dollars a year from the grave – the planning mishaps of these stars are instructive for all of us. With careful planning, you can keep your affairs private, you can ensure that what you have only benefits your immediate family and the people and causes you care about, and you can protect it in the event of a future divorce, creditor’s claim, or from mismanagement.

If you would like to learn more, you can download a copy of my free book “What Happens to Them? what every parent needs to know about estate planning” by clicking on the title.
Chuck Roulet
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Nationally Recognized Estate Planning Attorney, Author, and Speaker
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