Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Michael Jackson Estate Scores Big Tax Court Victory

MJIn Estate of Jackson v. Comm'r, T.C. Memo. 2021-48, "the Tax Court held that the value of the image and likeness of Michael Jackson was $4,153,912, as opposed to the $161,307,045 asserted by the IRS in court, and as compared to the IRS’s original position during audit that the likeness and image of Jackson was worth $434,264,000."

The subject of the proceedings was focused primarily on the likeness and image of Michael Jackson, as opposed to all of his intangible estate property.

Under California's codified Right of Publicity (ROP) Law, "any person who uses a deceased personality's name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness, in any manner, on or in products, merchandise, or goods. . .without prior consent from the person or persons, shall be liable for any damages sustained by the person or persons injured as a result thereof." 

The Tax Court held that Image and Likeness is included in the Gross Estate. 

The Estate's appraisal expert estimated a value of $161 million for the ROP, but the Tax Court rejected the opinion, stating that the expert conflated the ROP with the Estate's copyright assets. 

The Tax Court also stated that Jackson's personal life reduced the value of his ROP, based on moral and legal issues "clouding Jackson's reputation." 

See Michael Jackson Estate Scores Big Tax Court Victory, Probate Stars, May 16, 2021. 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2021/05/michael-jackson-estate-scores-big-tax-court-victory.html

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