4 min read

5 Surprising Celebrities who Died Without a Will

Even the most glorified amongst us are not immune to the mess left behind from dying without a will. And with astronomical wealth, comes an astronomical number of pieces to pick up when this happens. Leaving highly celebrated life’s work to scrap over, and huge cautionary tales on why to avoid this for yourself. Read on for 5 surprising household names who risked their cherished legacy in dying without a will:

Steve irwin
  1. Steve Irwin

Beloved wildlife enthusiast and television personality Steve Irwin passed away in 2006 from a stingray attack. Leaving behind a huge legacy, a large fortune and no will to determine how this should be distributed.

Going by Australian laws, Irwins surviving spouse and children became the primary beneficiaries of his estate. However, without a will, these same laws neglected other potential beneficiaries; such as extended family members, conservation charities, or wildlife organisations.

Leaving a large wider family and numerous charitable interests out cold after Irwin’s sudden death in 2006, it’s still widely debated as to whether this lack of financial clarity lay at the heart of the Irwin family feuds which followed.

2. Martin Luther King

Representing another household name taken suddenly amid his prime, Martin Luther King was shot and killed without a will. And despite leaving behind a relatively small net worth, the legacy of Dr. King has lived on as fiercely as his family’s feud to split leftover property.

Whilst King’s spouse went on to establish the King Centre museum to celebrate his legacy of peace and equality, son Dexter King instead later established a for-profit company; The Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Aiming to make a profit, Dexter King went on to ignite a bitter legal broil with the King Centre, suing the museum for use of personal and intellectual property belonging to his late father.

Despite being widely considered important pieces of history, the documents and items left behind by Dr. King are now the source of constant fighting between his children. Representing a family and historical tragedy, which could have been avoided with the use of a pre-written will.

3. Amy Whinehouse

Shock reverberated around the world in 2011, as it emerged the cherished Amy Whinehouse had died of alcohol poisoning at the age of just 27. Without a will, this left her family and close friends in the dark about her wishes amid an already heartbreaking time.

Not married at the time of her death, Whinehouse’s estate was divided between her parents. Meaning that despite claims of a tumultuous relationship with her father, Amy’s parents inherited over $4.66 million.

4. Aretha Franklin

Another music legend and widely celebrated as the Queen of Soul, Franklin left behind $80 million with no will. Under Michigan law her estate was then distributed amongst her four sons. However, after the discovery of a handwritten will excluding two of her sons, this original hand out was brought into question. Ambiguities from multiple notes found, some considered valid and some not, have sparked years of consequent fighting amongst her surviving family.

5. Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso lived until the age of 91; surrounded by thousands of paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, as well as a superstition of death and no will. Whilst eventually divided under French Law between his wife and daughter, Picasso’s superstition and lack of estate planning ultimately left behind a six-year long headache and over $30million in legal fees to settle. Representing yet another warning flag on the financial, emotional and time costs from not having a will. P

Protect your legacy and your family today

Whilst these stories of gross wealth and world wide recognised talents might not best reflect the legacy you’ll leave behind when you pass, these extreme cases of disarray from dying without a will have relevance to you.

Whether leaving behind your hard earned cash, precious family jewellery or a house you worked for years to build, there are many benefits to planning your estate which will protect these assets and the legacy they'll leave behind.

Get started with Safewill today, for an easy and affordable way to safeguard your wishes and your family peace, even after you're gone. Call us on 1800 103 310 for a one-to-one with one of our experts, or start a live chat with us now.

Last updated 13th December 2022
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Hannah Comiskey
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