There are a handful of classic rock stars that never seem to completely drop out of the collective consciousness, and Jim Morrison is one of them. The lead singer of The Doors was a very talented, enigmatic individual that passed away in 1971 at the age of 27.
He had a significant amount of wealth at the time of his passing, and his likeness and his work are bringing in revenue to this day. Clearly, his estate was, and is, very valuable. Since he lived a freewheeling lifestyle and he was only in his 20s, you may assume that he did not have any estate planning documents in place.
In fact, he did have a last will that left everything to his common-law wife Pamela Courson, assuming she lived for at least three months after he died. If she didn’t, his estate would have gone to his brother and sister. Courson did live long enough to inherit the assets through the terms of his last will.
However, there were challenges presented during the probate process, and she did not assume full possession of the estate. Shortly after courts ruled that she was in fact the rightful inheritor in 1974, she died, and she did not have a will. Under the intestate succession laws, her parents took possession of the Morrison estate.
As you might imagine, Jim Morrison did not have any great affection for Pamela Courson’s parents. He made it clear through the terms of his will that he would want his siblings to inherit his assets if she was not around.
To further muddy the waters, Morrison’s parents filed a lawsuit in an effort to wrest the estate away from the Coursons. The singer despised his parents, so this would certainly not be consistent with his true wishes. Ultimately, the two sets of parents came to an agreement, and they shared ownership of the estate.
There are a couple of lessons to be learned through this saga that underscore the importance of a properly constructed estate plan. First, even if you are a relatively young adult, you never know what the future holds.
You could say that he was a rare case because he had a death wish, but this is a presumptuous assumption. Yes, Morrison lived harder than most, but there are many hard partying rockers that are still alive and kicking in their 70s and 80s.
If you look at the statistics, many ordinary younger people pass away due to accidents and catastrophic illnesses every day. Without question, as soon as you attain adulthood, you should start to consider the importance of estate planning, especially if you are a parent.
The other key thing to take away is the importance of professional assistance when you are planning your estate. He had the foresight to execute a last will, but it was challenged, and it took three years for courts to actually enforce the terms of the will.
At the end of the day, his estate wound up in the hands of people that he really did not care for at all. If he had constructed a trust with successor beneficiaries, all of the negatives would have been avoided.
Courson would have immediately been recognized as the rightful heir, and successors that he named in the document (presumably his siblings) would have become the beneficiaries after her death.
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