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Bob Marley's Estate - Everything is Not Going to Be Alright...


Bob Marley died on May 11, 1981 at the age of 36, stricken with cancer and without a Will. At this time of his death, Marley's estate was an estimated $30 million. It seems that Marley's personal life was as "productive" as his professional music career; he died leaving Rita Marley, his then spouse, and 11 children (by 8 different mothers).

According to Jamaican law, Rita was entitled to 10% plus a life estate in 45% of the estate. The remainder of the estate would be split evenly between the children. (Note: a "life estate" is a legal property term; if you have a "life estate", you can enjoy the property during your life, but you do not have any rights to it at your death)

After Marley's death, the legal fighting began. First, Marley's attorney and accountant attempted to create an estate plan after his death, convincing Rita to forge Marley's signature and predate asset transfers to her before his death. The attorney and accountant were eventually found guilty of fraud and criminal conspiracy; Rita also eventually confessed and was removed from control of Marley's estate.

Then, Rita borrowed money and sued the estate over the Marley's name and likeness. Marley's mother, Cedella Booker, asserted Rita's heart was black. In the 90's, the Jamaican Supreme Court ruled that Rita and his children were entitled to rights to profit from Marley's name, likeness and image.

Many of these legal troubles would have been prevented if Marley would have had a Will. Knowing for over a year that he had cancer, Marley rejected creating a Will due to his Rastafarian faith. Ironically, Marley's estate has been decimated by the same problems (commercialism, corruption, etc.) he was attempting to prevent by not having a Will.

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