All About Estates

Dead People Who (Still) Make More Money Than You


Imagine this – You’re a movie director on the independent film circuit. You need to cast the lead in your latest project, but you’ve spent most of your budget on skinny jeans and fair-trade lattes.

You’re looking for someone that personifies being disillusioned, while also being super cool. Someone with star power. Someone ridiculously good-looking. Someone ridiculously cheap. You’re looking for a rebel. Someone so rebellious, that they don’t even need a cause to rebel against……

Enter James Dean. Yes, that James Dean who died in 1955. The Rebel Without a Cause actor has been cast in a new film about the Vietnam War. More on that later…..

Back by popular demand, my post today is all about dead celebrities that made way more money than you last year. Here’s the link to last year’s post in case you forgot to save it to your favourites.

Here are the Top 12 earners from the Forbes Annual list of the highest paid dead celebrities. Figures are for pre-tax earnings, before deducting fees for agents, managers, lawyers and estate executors. The Top 10 is very similar to last year.

12. Whitney Houston – $9.5 million

This year, half of Whitney’s estate was sold for $7 million and a remix of her version of “Higher Love” was a huge summer hit. Fans will always love Whitney. So much so that the “An Evening with Whitney” hologram tour is kicking off in the New Year.

 11. XXXTentacion – $10 million

I know what you’re thinking….. “Peter, who dis?”

Since his death by homicide earlier this year, the Florida rapper has sold more than 22 million copies of his records. Prior to his death, he had sold approximately 1 million copies of music. He is the  most-streamed dead celebrity in the U.S. on Spotify this year.

10. Nipsey Hussle – $11 million

If you’re thinking about starting a new career in hip hop, I’m happy to help you come up with your rapper name. This year, the LA rapper’s songs were streamed 1.85 billion times, which is great for his estate, because he retained the rights to his music.

Nipsey’s contributions to his community in South Los Angeles are now archived in U.S. history as part of the Congressional Record.

 9. Prince – $12 million

You didn’t have to be rich to be his girl, but you need to be rich if you want to buy his Toronto mansion, which just went up for sale.

Prince misspoke when he said there “ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with”. Because he was clearly most compatible with dollar signs.

8. Marilyn Monroe – $13 million

Last year, Marilyn was also #8 on the list with $14 million. Talk about consistency.

7. John Lennon – $14 million

This year was the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road and the Beatles benefited from the Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas that features their music. George Harrison was #13 on this year’s list at $9 million

6. Dr. Seuss – $19 million

Money like that can get a lot of looks. Money like that translates into 5 million books.

That’s a lot of cash, that’s truer than true. The beneficiaries of this estate were left with a huge residue.

An estate’s an estate, no matter how small. But a licensing deal with Hallmark will bring in quite a haul

5. Bob Marley – $20 million

Even though Bob Marley passed away without a will, three little birds told his estate not to worry about a thing. Money is rolling in from Marley Beverage Co. and House of Marley products like speakers and headphones.

4. Arnold Palmer – $30 million

 Last year I asked if his estate gets a royalty every time someone orders an Arnold Palmer. Turns out, the answer is yes.

3. Charles Schulz – $38 million

This year is the 70th anniversary of Peanuts and Snoopy still knows how to get paid. Snoopy in Space was just launched on Apple TV+.

2. Elvis Presley – $39 million

Graceland is the second most-visited house in the U.S. after the White House with 650,000 visitors annually. It doesn’t look like interest is slowing down anytime soon, with a biopic in the works for 2021 featuring Tom Hanks in a supporting role.

1. Michael Jackson – $60 million

For the 7th consecutive year, the King of Pop is also the King of this list. Last year MJ brought in $400 million thanks to the sale of his stake in a music publishing company, a new record deal and a Halloween special.

Honorable Mention: James Dean, Rebel without a Contract

The independent film Finding Jack will use old footage and photos to create a digital version of James which will be voiced by another actor. The movie is currently scheduled to hit theaters on Veterans Day 2020. Here are some quotes on the controversy:

“Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso. Or write a couple new John Lennon tunes”
Chris Evans aka Captain America

“NOPE. This shouldn’t be a thing”
– Elijah Wood (from Lord of the Rings)

“I normally agree with Master Frodo, but CGI is precious….”
– Gollum/Smeagol

“My audition was so bad that they went and hired a dead guy from the ‘50s. He has more Instagram followers than me too”
– A struggling actor

“I don’t care that there are rappers on this list making more than me. I’m not even really dead”
– Tupac

And finally…..

“If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live after he’s died, then maybe he was a great man. Immortality is the only true success”
 – James Dean

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About Peter Meitanis

1 Comment

  1. Steffanie Eckford

    December 23, 2019 - 2:47 pm

    So much fun to read! Thanks Peter!

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