Estate Strategies of the Rich and Famous

Eagle Wealth Management |



Famous people are all too human.

You might think that celebrities, with their giant entourages, must have trusted financial professionals in their lives, assisting them in creating estate strategies – but in many cases, you would be wrong.

Whether it’s because they have misconceptions about estate strategy or because they passed unexpectedly, these celebs have seen their legacies turn into games of tug-of-war.

The Queen of Soul
Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, was a monumental figure in American music history, boasting global best-selling records. Emerging from her roots in gospel singing at her father’s Detroit church, she soared with hits like “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” and “Think,” amassing an incredible 112 singles on the Billboard charts.

Despite her musical legacy, Aretha’s financial affairs were fraught. Following her passing in 2018, a contentious legal battle ensued over her estate, fueled by discovered documents and emotional courtroom drama. Voicemails from Aretha herself were even used in the proceedings.

Ultimately, a handwritten four-page will found in her couch was deemed her final testament, settling the fate of her fortune and intellectual property.


Key Takeaway:

  • Formalize any changes as soon as possible. Accidents will happen, but entrusting those handwritten pages to a professional rather than leaving them hidden in furniture might have spared Aretha's family from enduring such a long legal ordeal.

The Lizard King
Most people in their twenties aren’t thinking much about their estates. Jim Morrison, famously known as "The Lizard King," was too caught up in the rock star lifestyle to think too much about it. 

From 1965 to 1971, he fronted The Doors, known for hits like "Hello, I Love You" and "Light My Fire." Despite his fame, Morrison took a break in 1971 to live in Paris with his girlfriend, Pamela Courson, where he died at 27. 

Leaving a two-page will naming Courson as his primary heir, Morrison's estate grew substantially posthumously, fueled by his quarter ownership in The Doors and renewed interest in the band. 

Unfortunately, Courson passed three years after him, with no will of her own. This led to a dispute over Morrison’s legacy, with both his own parents and Courson’s heirs challenging the competence of his will. Ultimately, they elected to divide Morrison’s estate evenly, out of court.3


Key Takeaway:

  • Everyone needs a competent estate strategy, even those who may feel they are too young to worry about such things.


  • A clearly written and well-thought-out will may be able to lock down your final intentions. In Morrison’s case, he specifically excluded his estranged parents from his will without naming them, instead listing his brother and sister as alternate heirs after Courson. There were certainly other (or better) ways to favor his siblings over his parents, as well as avoid the courtroom drama after Courson’s passing.

More celebrity estate stories:

  • Frank Sinatra made sure his $100 million estate had no issues; he stipulated a provision disinheriting any individual who contested his will. Ultimately, they did it his way.3
  • Comic and actor Robin Williams left his estate to his children and a house to his wife, with the provision that the house went to his children after her death. Unfortunately, he said nothing about his personal effects, including valuable movie memorabilia, that existed inside the house, which led to a dispute between the parties that was settled out of court in 2015.3
  • Model and reality star Anna Nicole Smith, who famously married businessman J. Howard Marshall, was not mentioned in her elderly husband’s will when he died 14 months into their marriage. The existing will, predating the wedding, named Marshall’s son as his primary heir. This led to a very public legal dispute that continued for 20 years. By the time the court made its second and most recent ruling (the ruling can still be reopened), both Anna Nicole and Marshall’s son were deceased.3
  • Prince, who once went to great lengths to force his record label and the media to refer to him by an unpronounceable symbol, never took the time to write a will, informally or otherwise. It took six years for Minnesota courts to determine the heirs of his $156 million, splitting it into two LLCs, each controlled by three of Prince’s six half-siblings.4

These stories may be fascinating and tragic but they all underline the importance of a clear and comprehensive estate strategy. Even those of us mere mortals who don’t have to deal with record executives, film producers, and the paparazzi have the potential to make mistakes that can be costly and troubling to our families and loved ones.

Have you reviewed your will or trust recently?  If not, let this be a reminder to make time for it.

Until next week,
Your Eagle Wealth Team



Being SMART About Fitness Goals

Instead of simply saying you’re going to “exercise more,” state a SMART exercise goal. SMART stands for:

Specific: State the objective you wish to meet as specifically as possible: “I am going to commit to doing a full-body video workout several times a week.”

Measurable: Identify quantifiable criteria to allow you to measure your progress: “I am going to do this workout three times a week for at least 30 minutes each time. I will track my progress in my workout journal.”

Attainable: Your goal should be ambitious, but not impossible: “I am committing to three times a week, not seven times a week, because it is realistic and achievable for me with my current schedule.”

Relevant: The goals you set need to align with your current circumstances and priorities: “I will do it to stay healthy and strong during these times and to feel less stressed.”

Time-bound: Allocate a specific time period for completing your goal: “I will commit to this plan for a month. In 30 days, I will have had 12 workouts and will reassess my goal after that.”

Happy goal setting!

*Tip adapted from Cleveland Clinic



The Week on Wall Street

Stocks notched a solid gain last week as rate-cut expectations paced the rally as the Q1 earnings season wound down.

Stocks Climb Steadily

Monday opened with stocks picking up where they left off the prior Friday. Stocks were still basking in the afterglow of fresh jobs data, which eased investor concerns of an overheating economy. That and reports of a possible Middle East ceasefire fueled Monday’s rally.5

Stocks hung out in a narrow trading band Tuesday and Wednesday, yawning at the sparse economic news and a handful of negative earnings results. By contrast, the Nasdaq edged lower over those two days.6,7

On Thursday, the S&P 500 closed above 5,200 for the first time since early April. The next day, stocks rallied, and the Dow clinched its eighth consecutive day of gains, the longest winning streak since December and its best weekly performance this year. Fresh data showed consumers continue to have inflation concerns for the year ahead, which was unsettling.8,9


Jobs Market Shows A “Goldilocks” Outlook

Jobs data from the past few months have shown unemployment levels remain low while job growth stays strong—but not too hot.

And last week’s Conference Board's employment trends index for April projected slower jobs growth in the second half. The markets all year have responded well when the “Goldilocks” outlook suggests that economic indicators are “just right.”10




Any companies mentioned are for informational purposes only, and this should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of their securities. Any investment should be consistent with your objectives, time frame, and risk tolerance

1. NY Times, July 11, 2023

2. Detroit Free Press, April 21, 2023

3. Cake, August 25, 2020

4. CNN, August 3, 2022

5. The Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2024

6. The Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2024

7. The Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2024

8., May 9, 2024

9. The Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2024

10. The Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2024

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