Friday, December 9, 2011
This year marked the 30-year anniversary of Bob Marley’s death at the age of 36. Since his death in 1981, Marley’s estate has been part of many lengthy estate battles. The most recent estate battle involves Marley’s half brother, Richard Booker, and a corporation owned by Marley’s widow, Rita Marley, and Marley’s nine children. The corporation sued Booker and two corporations Booker owns because they used Marley’s name, likeness and image—a right exclusively held by Marley’s heirs.
Marley was worth around $30 million when he died, but he never created a will—even when he discovered he was dying from cancer. Marley’s assets were to pass under Jamaican intestate law, but those laws did not favor his widow. In an attempt to find a more favorable distribution plan, Marley’s attorney and accounted crafted an estate plan after Marley died. However, there is no legal way to accomplish a post-mortem estate plan.
One of Marley’s former managers discovered the attorney and accountant's attempt to fraudulently transfer Marley’s assets and a lengthy legal battle followed. Both the attorney and accountant were found guilty of a RICO conspiracy, fraud, and other illegal acts, and Rita Marley, who confessed to participating in the scheme, was removed from being an estate administrator.
The confusion, corruption, and continued legal battles surrounding Bob Marley’s estate are just more reminders of the importance of creating and updating an estate plan. A recent study revealed that two-thirds of adult Americans have not created a will. Perhaps the estate horror story surrounding the late musician’s estate will persuade some of these adults to create a will and hopefully avoid future inheritance fights.
See Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Bob Marley Case is a Great Reminder to Clients About Need for Estate Planning, On Wall Street, Dec. 6, 2011.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (WealthCounsel) for bringing this article to my attention.