As you will recall from my post two weeks ago – “The Dame is Dead, Long Live the Dame” – our beloved Elizabeth Taylor leaves behind a massive estate. Her assets on hand to be divided are sizeable, estimated at $600 million. More importantly, she continues to make money after her death: film royalties, perfume line, jewelry line, the list goes on… Additionally, her image continues to be marketable after her death.
Certain celebrity estates, such as Elvis Presley’s, have protected the posthumous image very stringently. What is not yet clear is to what degree Liz’s estate planning documents were drafted to continue to protect her marketability and ensure that the income goes to her beneficiaries. In order to ensure such protection, it will be necessary to exercise a certain level of vigilance – an infraction is only stopped based on the proactive decision to enter a civil suit. This is not something that a government entity is tasked with protecting, and rightly so, as it is the beneficiaries that stand to gain from image protection – not the general public. That being said, it is still appropriate that these protections should be afforded, hopefully the estate will diligently maintain their rights.
Though the details of her image protection are not known yet – there has already been some drama in regard to the appointment of Jason Winters as the administrator of the will. Winters was apparently a close confidante with Liz later in her life, leading to his appointment as administrator. Some have questioned if his appointment was appropriate because they were so close, but at this point her children (who would have the best grounds to object as they are her heirs, and if the Liz died intestate they would stand to inherit significantly more than they will under the terms of her will) have yet to object. Winters will receive a fee for his role as administrator, which leads to some of the concerns about impropriety.
Liz leaves a wonderful charitable legacy, and with appropriate estate planning her bequests can be maximized to affect her intent to the highest possible degree. Hopefully Winters is up to the task of administering such a large estate.
That is all for now – stay tuned for more news and analysis as it becomes available!