Our life insurance lawyers would like to share the top ten famous people life insurance beneficiary disputes along with estate disputes.
- Anna Nicole Smith vs. E. Pierce Marshall: The former Playboy model married oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II when he was 89 and she was 26. He died a year later without naming her as a beneficiary of his $1.6 billion estate. She sued his son, E. Pierce Marshall, who claimed to be the sole heir. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court twice, but Smith died of a drug overdose in 2007 before it was resolved. Her estate continued the legal battle until 2014, when a federal judge ruled in favor of E. Pierce Marshall’s estate.
- Michael Jackson’s children vs. AEG Live: The pop star had a $20 million life insurance policy with AEG Live, the promoter of his comeback tour, as the beneficiary. After his death in 2009, his three children sued AEG Live for wrongful death, alleging that the company hired and supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who administered the fatal dose of propofol to Jackson. The jury found AEG Live not liable in 2013, and the children did not receive any of the life insurance proceeds.
- Robin Williams’ widow vs. his children: The actor had several life insurance policies worth $100 million, which he left to his three children from previous marriages. His widow, Susan Schneider Williams, claimed that she was entitled to some of the money to maintain the home they shared. She also disputed the ownership of some of his personal items, such as watches and memorabilia. The parties reached a settlement in 2015, but the terms were not disclosed.
- Heath Ledger’s daughter vs. ReliaStar Life Insurance Company: The actor had a $10 million life insurance policy with ReliaStar Life Insurance Company, which he named his daughter Matilda as the beneficiary. After his death in 2008, ReliaStar refused to pay out the claim, arguing that Ledger’s death was a suicide and not an accident. Ledger’s father sued ReliaStar on behalf of Matilda, and the case was settled out of court in 2009 for an undisclosed amount.
- Brittany Murphy’s mother vs. her husband: The actress had a $10 million life insurance policy with her husband Simon Monjack as the beneficiary. After her death in 2009, her mother Sharon Murphy claimed that Monjack had forged her signature on the policy documents and that she was the rightful beneficiary. Monjack died of pneumonia in 2010, and Sharon Murphy dropped the lawsuit.
- Whitney Houston’s daughter vs. Cissy Houston: The singer had a $20 million life insurance policy with her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown as the beneficiary. After her death in 2012, her mother Cissy Houston filed a petition to delay the payout, arguing that Bobbi Kristina was too young and vulnerable to handle such a large sum of money. She proposed to put the money in a trust until Bobbi Kristina turned 30. Bobbi Kristina opposed the petition and reached a compromise with Cissy Houston in 2013.
- Prince’s siblings vs. his estate: The musician did not have a will or a life insurance policy when he died in 2016, leaving behind an estimated $200 million estate. His six siblings were declared his heirs by a judge, but they have been fighting over how to divide and manage his assets ever since. They have also been sued by various creditors and claimants who allege that they are entitled to a share of Prince’s fortune.
- Kobe Bryant’s parents vs. his wife: The basketball star had several life insurance policies worth over $600 million, which he left to his wife Vanessa Bryant and their four daughters. His parents Joe and Pamela Bryant claimed that they were owed some of the money because they had supported him financially and emotionally throughout his career. They also accused Vanessa Bryant of being greedy and selfish. The dispute was settled privately in 2020.
- Chadwick Boseman’s wife vs. his family: The actor had a $12 million life insurance policy with his wife Taylor Simone Ledward as the beneficiary. He also had a will that left all his assets to her. However, his family contested the will and claimed that they were entitled to some of his estate because they had helped him during his battle with cancer. They also alleged that Ledward had coerced him into marrying her shortly before his death in 2020. The case is still pending in court.
- Larry King’s wife vs. his children: The broadcaster had a $50 million life insurance policy with his wife Shawn King as the beneficiary. He also had a handwritten will that left his estate to his five children, two of whom died in 2020. Shawn King challenged the validity of the will and claimed that Larry King had been influenced by his son Larry King Jr. to write it. She also accused him of elder abuse and fraud. The case is still ongoing.
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