Money & Power

8 Celebrities Who Died Without a Will

Where did all their riches go?

When Prince died without a will  in early 2016, his fortune—estimated at $150 to 300 million—was distributed among his siblings.

It's a surprise that someone as careful about his music distribution (he requested that all his songs be removed from streaming services) died intestate. "For significant estates, especially where the client has been really careful about their intellectual property during lifetime, it's surprising that there's no trust in place," Laura Zwicker, a partner at the law firm Greenberg Glusker who works in estate planning, told Forbes.

But Prince is not alone in making this mistake. Here are the stories of seven other famous people who died without making their wishes clear to their heirs.

Jimi Hendrix

A fight over the legendary guitarist's estate lasted more than 30 years. Hendrix died without a will in 1970, and when his father died in 2002, he left Jimi's sister Janie in charge of the estate—which was valued at $80 million. The musician's siblings fought over licensing agreements related to the singer's image, but a settlement was finally reached before the case was set to go to trial in July 2015, according to Rolling Stone.

Kurt Cobain

The 27-year-old Nirvana frontman was found dead in his Seattle home in 1994. Since he died without a will, his wife, Courtney Love, was the primary beneficiary of his $450 million fortune. Their daughter, Frances Bean, took control of a trust fund when she turned 18 in 2010.

Bob Marley

Marley died of cancer in 1981, but like many other deceased musicians' estates, his estate still generates considerable income. Dozens of people reportedly made claims on his $30 million estates, and the legal battle that ensued lasted three decades. A court decision eventually awarded Marley's wife Rita and her family the rights to Marley's name and likeness.

Abraham Lincoln

Despite his training as a lawyer, the 16th president of the United States died without a will when he was assassinated in 1865.


Howard Hughes

When the famously reclusive billionaire died at age 70 in 1976, a will in his name was found at the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City, UT. It turned out to be a forgery, and his $1.5 billion fortune (worth $6.4 billion in today's dollars) was split between 22 cousins.

Pablo Picasso

It took more than six years to settle the $30 million estate of the artist, who died in southeast France 1973 at the age of 91. His assets were split between six heirs, but the family was fighting over the merchandising rights to Picasso's name as recently as 1999.

Robert Burns

The well-known Scottish poet ("Auld Lang Syne" was one of his) died in 1796 at 37, leaving his widow Jean to administer his estate. Court records show that Burns's mother was paid a stipend out of the estate and a daughter born outside of his marriage to Jean (they had four children together) received a year of "room, board, and washing."

This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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