Who Is Your Beneficiary? Marilyn Monroe Ultimately Had No Idea

It is important to know your beneficiary when creating a last will and testament. But that is not always what happens. One of the world’s most famous icons, Marilyn Monroe didn’t really know to whom she left her money and estate.

Acting Coach & Psychiatrist Got Everything

Sadly, Marilyn Monroe died in 1962 at only 36 years old because of a drug overdose. There have always been questions about whom she made beneficiaries and even her business manager, Inez Melson, was suspicious when the will was first created.

The will left some money to her mother who was mentally ill and some personal belongings to Inez Melson, her business manager. The remaining estate was to be awarded to her psychiatrist and acting coach. To her psychiatrist, she left 25% to be used to help those that couldn’t afford psychiatric counselling. To her acting coach, Lee Strasberg, she left 75% of her estate. This seemed a bit strange but even more surprising is what actually happened to her estate.

Strasberg’s 2nd Wife Takes Control of Monroe’s Fortune

For a short time, Lee Strasberg did control Marilyn Monroe’s estate but then his second wife, Anna, took control. She had only met Monroe one time but she was in control for years and created a lot of chaos.

  • Publicity rights lawsuit – Anna filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit for the publicity rights of Marilyn Monroe’s image and likeness. She won and earned more money because of Monroe than Monroe earned in her lifetime.
  • Licensing deal – Anna made a licensing deal with CMG Worldwide who sold products that had Monroe’s picture on them. Things like cigarette lighters, pet clothing and many other “iconic” memorabilia earned Anna millions of dollars
  • Personal belongings – Anna even filed a lawsuit against the heirs of Inez Melson, Monroe’s business manager, for personal belongings of Monroe’s of which they had possession. She won this lawsuit also and auctioned the items off earning over $13 million.

Finally, Anna Strasburg sold her part in Marilyn Monroe’s estate for a reported $20 – $30 million. Monroe has been on the highest earning deceased celebrities consistently since her death. In 2015 alone, her estate earned $17 million.

Consider Everything – Carefully

Consider everything when creating an estate plan. You may want a specific person to benefit from your estate but there is a strong chance that someone else will get control of your estate unless you provide otherwise.

Marilyn Monroe obviously wanted to help those who are mentally ill and had she planned a little more carefully, she could have helped many people. But instead someone she had only met one time used Monroe’s estate for her own selfish purposes.

We can all learn from the mistakes of Marilyn Monroe. Allow our office to help you create a good estate plan that will provide for your family, friends and the charitable organizations you want to help. Call our office today.


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