J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Attorney and CPA

Chronic litigation with estate administration of Marilyn Monroe

Florida residents work hard throughout their lifetimes to create wealth for themselves and their loved ones. They wish to bequeath their property to loved ones; they want it to be administered according to their ideals, beliefs and values. However, there are times when controversies and litigation surrounding estate administration occur.

One such litigation is tax litigation surrounding the estate of Marilyn Monroe. The late star bequeathed her estate to her acting mentor, Lee Strasberg. His wife, Anna Strasberg, became the executor of the estate after the death of Monroe's attorney, Aaron Frosch. Anna formed Marilyn Monroe LLC in 200 1 to oversee the estate of Marilyn Monroe.

Aaron Frosch had to face litigation to avoid hefty California estate tax. Then, in 2005, Monroe's estate had to contend with allegedly unauthorized commercial exploitation of Monroe's image by her photographer. The court ruled that the estate did not have the posthumous right of publicity and decreed in favor of Monroe's photographers.

After one month, the California Legislature recognized posthumous "right of publicity" applicable to any celebrity who died before 1985, which would be transferrable to the estate of that deceased celebrity. Monroe LLC contested the earlier district court decision which was in favor of Marilyn Monroe's photographer. However, the contentions which were dismissed as New York law, which does not recognize posthumous right to publicity, applied to Marilyn Monroe since she was domiciled in New York at the time of her death.

Estate administration is a very emotional thing for any person. A Florida resident likely hopes to be at peace when leaving this world and could seek advice from an experienced legal professional when bequeathing his or her estate. The nature and type of property, diversity of jurisdiction, tax laws and possible future litigation has to be factored into how the estate is handled.

Source: Accountingweb.com, "Goodbye Norma Jean, Hello Estate Issues," Ken Berry, Dec. 4, 2012

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