What do Picasso, Jimi Hendrix, Abraham Lincoln, and Sonny Bono all have in common? You're probably thinking, not much. But they do, in fact, have one big thing in common. They all died intestate—which means they died without having a will.
Surprisingly, even the rich and famous can fail to plan ahead when it comes to their estate.
Here's a snippet of famous people who died without wills and what happened to their estates.
1. Jimi Hendrix
Although Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, the battle over his estate raged on for more than 30 years for one simple reason: Hendrix left no will regarding the distribution of his estate. To complicate matters, the estates of musicians and other artists often continue to generate money long after their deaths.
2. Bob Marley
Like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley's estate continues to generate significant revenue despite the fact that Marley died in 1981. Also, like Hendrix, Bob Marley died intestate. His estate, worth a reported $30 million, had dozens of claimants.
3. Salvatore Phillip 'Sonny' Bono
Sonny Bono, the politician and former singer/songwriter, died an untimely death in a skiing accident in 1998. His widow Mary Bono requested that she be appointed the estate's administrator. Ex-wife Cher showed up on the scene as a claimant in Bono's estate, and a "love child" surfaced soon after that, making the situation even more difficult. Eventually Sonny Bono's two children and Mary Bono were determined to be the heirs.
Swedish author Stieg Larsson who wrote The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, among others, died in 2004. Like many others, Larsson died without a will, and Swedish law dictated that Larsson's estate was to be divided up between his father and his brother. His lifelong partner of 32 years, Eva Gabrielsson, received nothing, although the family did grant her ownership of the couple's apartment.
5. Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso died in 1973 at the age of 91, leaving behind a fortune in assets that included artwork, five homes, cash, gold and bonds. Because Picasso died intestate and left no will, it took six years to settle his estate at a cost of $30 million. His assets were eventually divided among six heirs.
6. DJ AM
DJ AM, whose real name was Adam Goldstein, was found dead in his New York City apartment in 2009. While his name might only be familiar to those of a certain age, he too made the mistake of not having a will. In Goldstein's case however, since he had no heirs and was not married, disposition of his estate was fairly straightforward with his mother as the sole beneficiary.
7. Howard Hughes
Howard Hughes was an eccentric billionaire who died in 1976 at the age of 70. When he died, his will was discovered at the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints headquarters in Salt Lake City. However, the will proved to be a forgery in a Nevada court, and his estate was divided among his 22 cousins.
8. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, the nation's 16th president, has the distinction of being the first president to be assassinated (1865) and the first president to die without a will—despite being a lawyer himself.
Famous or not, everyone should have a will. It's simple to do, and it saves your family a lot of money and headaches. And, as illustrated by the stories above, you're never too young—or too smart or too powerful—to have a will.
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