Wills, Probate, and Celebrities

Losing a loved one is a difficult time in anyone’s life, let alone the challenges inherent in figuring out what to do with (or how to obtain) the person’s property left behind. Sometimes the process can go smoothly, as in the case when a deceased person set up a clear will or trust with an experienced attorney. Other times, the process isn’t so smooth, especially when there is no will or trust in place. In such cases, various questions arise: Who gets the house? Who gets the yacht? Who gets the cars? Or, generally, “Who gets what?”


Luckily, there is a branch of law called “probate law” dedicated exclusively to answering these questions and to transferring property to the right people. Probate law deals with many things like:

  • The existence, validity, and interpretation of wills and trusts
  • Identifying heirs and beneficiaries
  • Calculating the value of an estate (the property left behind when someone dies)
  • Dealing with the debt of the deceased person
  • Transferring property to heirs or beneficiaries
  • Getting control of property left in the deceased person’s name


As you can imagine, when there is a large estate, the process of distributing money or property can get quite complicated even under normal circumstances. When the person who dies is wealthy and/or famous, the stakes become even higher.  Here are some (in)famous examples of celebrities who had no wills when they died and their estimated net worth at time of death:

  • Amy Winehouse ($4.6 million), 2011
  • Jimi Hendrix ($5 million), 1970
  • Bob Marley ($30 million), 1981
  • Pablo Picasso ($500 million), 1973
  • Michael Jackson ($500 million), 2009 – Jackson’s will eventually surfaced years after his death.
  • Aretha Franklin ($80 million), 2018


But what about celebrities who DO have wills? Well, here are some interesting examples of celebrities and their wills.

  • Oprah Winfrey’s will gives $30 million to her dogs.
  • Robert Kardashian’s $30 million estate went exclusively to his then-widow, leaving nothing for his children.
  • Marilyn Monroe gave everything to her acting coach ($13.4million).
  • Janis Joplin left money for friends to throw a party to celebrate her life.
  • Sean Connery and Simon Cowell both don’t leave anything for their kids.


In sum, when a person dies with no will, it is important that the family members work with an experienced probate attorney to navigate the probate court’s procedures. The attorney can make the process much simpler for the survivors by, for example, advising them on strategies for taking control of money and property, claiming your fair share, or lawfully dividing the decedent’s property with heirs or beneficiaries.


Castleton Law Group
(626) 810-9300
17800 Castleton Street, Suite 630, City of Industry, California 91748