Famous for their music (and for some, their transition into film), these seven pop stars were icons of their age. They continue to live on as permanent parts of pop culture, with some now more famous than when they were alive. As stars, they all made large amounts of money during their careers, generating healthy fortunes to be passed on. These are the people that some of the most famous pop icons left their fortunes to.
Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, earned the nickname for a reason: he was one of the most successful artists in history. Surprisingly, by the time of his death, his career earnings had taken a serious hit and he was left with a small net worth. It still amassed to roughly $5 million, about $20 million by today’s standards, but it was small by comparison to what it had been.
Presley’s questionable financial choices, combined with the often poor management of “Colonel” Tom Parker, contributed to this diminished inheritance. When Presley died on August 16, 1977, he had separated from his wife and mother of his child, Priscilla Presley, meaning that all of his fortune went to his daughter.
As she was still a child, the money allocated to Lisa Marie Presley was put into a trust managed by Presley’s father Vernon. However, he died a short two years after his son, making Priscilla the manager of the inheritance. She impressively managed to grow the amount to about $100 million by turning Graceland into a museum and establishing Elvis Presley Enterprises. Lisa Marie took control of the trust when she turned 25.
If Elvis was the King of Rock and Roll, then Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. Well known for his music, Jackson became a controversial figure after allegations arose that he had abused young boys at his estate, Neverland. It was because of these allegations, his arrest, and eventual acquittal, that it took over 10 years for his estate to be settled after his 2009 death.
In order to settle the estate, attorneys had to reach a conclusion on how much his image and likeness was worth, something that was difficult to determine as his reputation had hit rock bottom after the allegations. Finally, in 2021, his estate was valued at $111 million. The funds were divided between Jackson’s mother and his three children, who received the money in lump sums throughout their lives.
In 1977, singer and actor Bing Crosby died. Unlike many other top stars, Crosby left extremely clear and specific instructions on how his money should be divided. He also provided precise instructions for his funeral four months before he passed. At the time of his death, Crosby’s estate was valued at around $60 million.
Crosby decided to give his wife her portion of his inheritance in cash. He also left $50,000 each to Gonzaga High School and Gonzaga University, and $5,000 to St. Aloysius Catholic Church. For his children, however, he set the terms so they couldn’t access their inheritance until they turned 65. One of his sons, Philip Crosby, felt this was because his father worried that they would get into trouble with so much money.
Whitney Houston died at only 48, shocking the world. At the time of her death in 2012, it was estimated that her estate was worth $20 million. Houston had clearly outlined in her will that everything she had was to go to her daughter Bobbi Kristina, with the money being doled out at various stages during her life.
The issue of Houston’s inheritance initially seemed to be simple, but her daughter died only a few years after her mother. Houston had included a clause in her will that would account for the death of her daughter, so the money was then transferred to her own mother, Cissy Houston. Not wanting to manage it herself, Cissy had Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law, step in as the executor of the estate.
As with Michael Jackson, the process of valuing the estate of Prince was a lengthy and drawn-out ordeal. After his death in 2016, it took six years of deliberation for it to be decided that his estate would be valued at a whopping $156.4 million. Initially, the bank in charge of the estate only valued it at $82.3 million, whereas the IRS valued it at $163.2 million.
As with Jackson’s estate, it was putting a monetary value on Prince’s music rights and image that caused the discrepancy in these estimates and the lengthy process. Prince had not left a will, meaning that a team of lawyers made the decision about distributing the wealth. The money was split between Prince’s oldest three siblings and Primary Wave, a music company that bought the interests of the star’s younger siblings.
George Michael‘s unexpected death in 2016 was another one that rattled the public. Having left a will, his estate was split between his father and sisters. It was his father that received the horse racing farm that Michael had owned, and his sisters received all of his other properties. But with so much money involved, it seems unlikely that it could ever have been a simple inheritance case.
Unbeknown to many, Michael had been dating Fadi Fawaz, a hairdresser in London whom he had planned to declare a civil partnership with. Fawaz hadn’t been included in Michael’s will but took it upon himself to claim squatters’ rights in one of the London properties, living there for years after his death. What ensued was a legal battle between him and Michael’s family, resulting in a private agreement being made between the parties.
In 1998, Sonny Bono of the famous duo Sonny and Cher, died while on a ski trip with his family in Nevada. With one of the smaller fortunes on this list, only $2 million, one would think that his inheritance would be a relatively easy matter, but it wasn’t. As he had left no will, there was plenty of room for debate about who would control the estate.
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Cher, his ex-wife and mother of his son Chaz Bono, filed a suit for $1.6 million claiming that Bono hadn’t paid her the appropriate amount of child support from their divorce. Eventually, his money was divided between his current wife Mary, Chaz, and his other child Christy. At one point a man stepped forward claiming to be Bono’s love child, but he quickly dropped the claim.