All About Estates

Dead People Who Make More Money Than You

Imagine this – You’re front row center in your red leather jacket. The King of Pop is thrilling the crowd. He moonwalks so close to your seat that you can touch him. But you can’t. It’s a Michael Jackson hologram. You spent half your paycheck to watch a hologram perform. This is why my post today is all about dead celebrities that made wayyyy more money than you last year.

Forbes has released its annual list of the highest paid dead celebrities. On this year’s list, there are a couple of celebrities who passed away without a will. In one case, that led to a licensing bonanza. In the other, litigation and a record deal that couldn’t be finalized. It will be interesting to see where Aretha Franklin will rank in next year’s list. She passed away in August without a will as well.

Here are the Top 10 earners, in countdown format because it’s more fun that way. Dead celebs don’t have time for loonies, so values are in US Dollars. Figures are for pretax earnings, before deducting fees for agents, managers, lawyers and estate executors.

You probably have already guessed who’s #1, so try guessing how much he earned instead…..


10. John Lennon – $12MM

Imagine that….

9.   Prince – $13MM

Prince passed away without a will and this figure would have been much greater had a $31MM record deal not been reversed. He should be much higher on next year’s list.

8.   Marilyn Monroe – $14MM

Marilyn died in 1962. Talk about staying power.

7.   Hugh Hefner – $15MM

Hefner sold the Playboy Mansion for $100MM when he was still alive under the condition that he could continue to live there until his death.

6.   Dr. Seuss – $16MM

With that much cash, no wonder the eggs are green.

5.   Bob Marley – $23MM 

Bob Marley passed away without a will and his likeness is used to sell all kinds of things. House of Marley speakers anyone? Marley Beverage Co. also offers all-natural teas and coffees with plans to grow (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

4.   Charles Schulz – $34MM

Definitely not peanuts

3.   Arnold Palmer – $35MM

Does his estate get a royalty every time someone orders an Arnold Palmer?

2.   Elvis – $40MM

His estate says thank you. Thank you very much

1.   Michael Jackson – $400MM

MJ has earned $2.4 billion in the decade since his death. It’s just a matter of time until the hologram concert rolls out to 1,000 cities near you.

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About Peter Meitanis


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