Celebrity Estate Plans (Part 5): Bob Marley: Don’t Worry About a Thing (Except Getting a Will)

Iconic musician Bob Marley did not have a will when he died in 1981, at just age 36.  Mr. Marley believed that executing a Will was against his Rastafarian beliefs.  After his death, it took over ten years for Jamaican courts to administer Mr. Marley’s multi-million-dollar estate between his surviving family, which included his spouse, Rita, his mother, and eleven children from seven different marriages.  Under Jamaican intestacy law, only ten percent of an intestate estate passes outright to the decedent’s surviving spouse.  Forty-five percent of the estate is reserved for the surviving spouse during his or her life as a life estate, and the remaining forty-five percent of the estate is divided evenly between the decedent’s surviving children.  Because Mr. Marley did not prepare a Will expressing how he wanted his assets to be divided at his death, a prolonged and acrimonious estate administration ensued.

Many of Mr. Marley’s children, bandmates, and his music label, lodged claims against the estate.  To make matters worse, Mr. Marley’s attorney was found guilty of convincing Rita to forge her husband’s signature on documents that would transfer a larger share of the estate to her outright.  By not making his wishes known, Mr. Marley inadvertently left behind a web of valuable assets (including rights to his music and merchandise) for the courts to untangle.