It's surprising to note that so many famous musicians, actors, and athletes have died without leaving a will. When fame – and large sums of money – are involved, you might expect those types of preparations to be made well in advance. But a number of celebrities either passed away unexpectedly or left behind disputed documents. Some famous people who didn't have wills had their estates divided amicably by family members, but most celebrities who died without wills ended up having the rights to their estates battled out in courts for years.
Arguably, the most famous case on this list is Michael Jackson. While Jackson did, in fact, have a will, it resulted in years of legal battles between his siblings and attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain, who were named the executors of Jackson's estate. Similarly, Jimi Hendrix died in 1970 without leaving a will, provoking decades of legal fights between his family members. In 2009, his siblings ended up in court over the rights to the musician's iconic image. Other celebrities who died without a will include Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, and Prince.
Who else will you find on this list? Read on to find out, and get in on the conversation in the comments section.
Michael Jackson actually did have a will, but it is considered invalid by several of his family members. Attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain were named the executors of Jackson's estate, but Janet Jackson and the pop star's other siblings took the case to court, stating that Branca and McClain had no claim to the estate.
"What will be gained by a finding of invalidity is that the executors will be replaced and the estate and the guardianship will be managed in the best interests of the children, which is what Michael wanted," Janet's lawyer said in a statement.
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Abraham Lincoln did not have a will in place when he was assassinated in 1865. Following his unexpected death, the family enlisted Justice David Davis of the United States Supreme Court to take care of his estate. Davis went on to petition the court to declare that the President's $85,000 estate be divided by his wife and two living children.
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Following Prince's unexpected death in 2016, his siblings stated that the "Purple Rain" singer did not have a legitimate will in place. A long legal battle is expected, but documentary filmmaker Ian Halperin believes that a valid will exists somewhere in Toronto.
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Kurt Cobain's entertainment lawyer, Rosemary Carroll, has stated that Kurt Cobain's will was incomplete as he wanted Courtney Love taken out of it. This ambiguity has led to many legal battles between Love and Cobain's Nirvana bandmates, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic.
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Martin Luther King, Jr.'s estate has been the subject of many lawsuits since the civil rights leader died without a will. His offspring did form a corporation in order to fairly control his assets, but then they ended up fighting over stakes in that venture.
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Amy Winehouse died without a valid will stating what to do with her $6.7 million estate. Her assets went to her closest living relatives, her parents Mitch and Janis.
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Jimi Hendrix died in 1970 without leaving a will. For decades, his family members participated in legal fights over his estate. In 2009, his siblings went to court over the rights to the musician's iconic image.
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#81 on The Best Singers of All Timesee more on Jimi Hendrix
Tupac Shakur died without a will, but his mother Afeni Shakur stepped in and set up a trust to protect his legacy. The rapper was actually in debt at the time of his death, but Afeni grew his estate into over $40 million.
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