Bob Marley inheritance dispute still raging

Published 20 Jun 2014

In a telling example of the importance of estate planning, inheritance disputes regarding the legacy of celebrated musician Bob Marley are still raging strongly, 33 years after his death.

Marley, who passed away on May 11 1981, died intestate due to religious reasons. By following the Rastafarian faith, Marley did not acknowledge mortality and so his death was not observed with funeral rites nor did he create a will for his estate.

“He was right about celebrating eternal life through his music, but he inadvertently created a lengthy probate mess that is bound to continue for many decades. This could have been avoided with an irrevocable trust in the proper jurisdiction,” Rocco Beatrice, managing director of Estate Street Planners, explained in a media release.

Due to the lack of a will, the Marley estate has been fought over for many years. Multiple lawsuits, court proceedings and family provision claims have been lodged in Jamaica, the UK and the US. Those vying for a piece of the estate include his widow, children and grandchildren, as well as distant relatives, band mates and business associates.

When Marley passed away, his estate was estimated to be worth close to US$30 million. Since his death, this figure has climbed significantly, with royalties and other business ventures producing around $18 million in 2012 alone.

“All these legal disputes would have certainly {seemed} trifling to Marley; the thing is, they could have been prevented with estate planning that respected his spiritual worldview,” Mr Beatrice said.

For example, an irrevocable trust enables a living person to establish a legal structure by which he or she can create trusts for the benefits of others. Marley could have appointed an estate overseer who would be able to control the estate and distribute payments based on certain events – including his children coming to age, his wife’s passing or family members requiring medical attention.

“Aside from being a brilliant musician and a kind soul, Marley was also a smart businessman. His numerous ventures could have been deposited in trust for the benefit of his family or others,” expressed Mr Beatrice.

As the battles for Marley’s estate still rage on, Mr Beatrice urges the public to consider this case as encouragement to step up their own estate planning efforts. Even when net worth is based on complicated intellectual property rights, succession planning can mitigate the need for inheritance disputes.

If a loved one has died without a will, contact a contesting wills lawyer for advice and guidance on accessing your rightful claim to the estate.

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