Bob Marley’s Multi-Million Legacy and Estate Planning Battles

The king of reggae, Bob Marley, created a musical revolution, influenced society, and by his death, at age 36 his earnings reached an estimated $30 million estate in 1981. Marley died without writing a will because it was against his Rastafarian faith. According to Celebrity Legacies: Bob Marley, Marley’s fortune grew, even more, following his death to the present day. His musical revolution has never stopped generating income from intellectual property, musical sales, and various business ventures. The Jamaican state divided Marley’s fortune among his survivors however it was the beginning of more than three decades of legal battles and feuds between 11 children, 7 mothers, and 21 ex-band members.

The Jamaican state law on May 11, 1981, divided the US$30 million fortune in the following way:

  • Marley’s widow, Rita, 10% + holding a life estate in another 45%
  • Marley’s 11 children were entitled to equal shares of the remaining 45% and a remainder interest in Rita’s life estate
    • 4 children by his wife
    • 8 children by other women

In 2008, Celebrity Legacies estimated that pirated sales from printing Bob Marley’s face reached US$600 million. “This could have been avoided with an irrevocable trust in the proper jurisdiction” according to a Forbes article in 2014. Rastafarians cannot acknowledge the existence of mortality. So a will is not an option for this faith. Instead of a will Rastafarians should write an irrevocable trust for the purpose of estate planning. According to Wikipedia, an irrevocable trust will live on in permanence, and it does not acknowledge mortality:

  • Purpose: A trust that cannot be modified or dissolved without the consent of the beneficiary. The grantor effectively relinquishes all rights to any assets put into the trust.
  • Tax Benefits: Assets are removed from the grantor’s taxable estate. The grantor is also relieved of any tax liability from income generated by assets that are placed into the trust. In some jurisdictions, this rule does not apply if the grantor also serves as the trustee.

If you are interested in using irrevocable trusts, seek the advice of an estate planner like Ashok Sanghavi to represent your interests when you are no longer on this plane of existence.

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