Which famous people died without writing a will?

Published 17 May 2016

Writing a will is very important if you have a sizable estate with multiple assets tied up in different investments. While not completely ironclad, a carefully worded will can reduce the chances that your wealth becomes the subject of inheritance disputes.

Despite these benefits, there are many examples of celebrities who failed to address their estate planning prior to their deaths. Passing away without a will is called 'dying intestate', which may lead to assets being distributed to eligible persons according to a set formula rather than the deceased's wishes.

So which famous people didn't complete a will? Here are a few of the world's most well known faces who died intestate.

Heath Ledger

The Dark Knight star died unexpectedly of an accidental drug overdose in 2008. While Ledger had previously written a will, he'd failed to update the document in the years before his death.

This resulted in his daughter Matilda receiving nothing, as she hadn't been born when the existing will was written. Fortunately, the remaining beneficiaries - Ledger's parents and sisters - ensured all of the late actor's assets went to Matilda.

Bob Marley

Marley's death was hardly a surprise - at least not to him. He had allegedly been diagnosed with cancer approximately four years before he succumbed to the disease. However, reports suggested that his Rastafarian beliefs prevented him from producing a will.

Sadly, Marley's estate became embroiled in multiple inheritance disputes, largely because the Reggae superstar continues to generate considerable wealth decades after his death.

Howard Hughes

Eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, whose early life was depicted in the film The Aviator, increasingly became a recluse in his later years. When he died in 1976, an official will could not be found, although some people came forward claiming to have discovered one. Many of these turned out to be forgeries.

Ultimately, the courts ruled Hughes had died intestate, which meant his US$1.5 billion (AU$1.9 billion) estate - worth more than US$6 billion by today's standards - was distributed among his 22 cousins.

Martin Luther King

King was assassinated at the height of the US civil rights movement in 1968, but he had failed to write a will prior to his death. In the years since, King's family have fought over a range of issues relating to his estate, including intellectual property rights and personal possessions.

Would you like to pursue an inheritance dispute? Please contact a contesting wills lawyer at GMP for more information on how to proceed.

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