Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The right of publicity and Michael Jackson's Estate

Jackson The following discussion is reproduced with permission from Bridget Crawford, Estate Tax Disaster Looms for Michael Jackson’s Estate, Feminist Law Professors, June 27, 2009:

The right of publicity is descendible in California.  This means that a person may transfer by will the right to exploit his or her name, likeness, image, etc., just as one might transfer, say, an heirloom piece of jewelry.

In Postmortem Rights of Publicity: The Federal Estate Tax Consequences of New State-Law Property Rights, published in the Yale Pocket Part,  I have argued, together with Mitchell Gans and Jonathan Blattmachr, that a descendible right of publicity likely is included in a decedent’s gross estate for federal estate tax purposes. In the Jackson estate, the estate tax value of Mr. Jackson’s rights of publicity very easily could exceed his estate’s liquid assets available to pay taxes.

In short: big estate tax problems loom on the horizon for Mr. Jackson’s estate.


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