David Bowie — Estate Planning Genius!


On January 10, 2016, the world lost a music icon. David Robert Jones, also known as David Bowie, passed away from liver cancer just two days after his newest album, “Blackstar“, was released. Bowie’s legacy will always be remembered through his music, but what most people do not know, is that Bowie was also an estate planning genius.

In the 1970s & 80s, Bowie suffered hard financial times. It was even reported that Bowie was on the verge of Bankruptcy. In 1997, As Bowie was contemplating his financial options, he met with investment banker David Pullman who turned him on to an amazing idea.

Pullman convinced Bowie to sell a stake in his music, but only for a short time. Pullman helped Bowie create “Bowie Bonds,” whereby Bowie sold rights to his music for a 10-year period for $55 million, and Bowie promised a fixed-rate of return of 7.9%. The Bowie Bonds were secured though Bowie’s royalties and copyrights of his own music. Prudential Insurance Company purchased the bonds and was paid in full during the 10-year time frame. In 2007, Bowie retained the rights to all of his own music.

The amazing thing about Bowie’s revolutionary estate planning move related to Bowie’s motives. In a recent interview, Mr. Pullman emphasized the fact that Bowie created these bonds, not for his own benefit, but to ensure that his wife, Iman, and his two children would be set for the rest of their lives.

Bowie’s current estate is thought to be worth more than $200 million (although a recent estimate put it closer to $100 million), with almost half of his estate going to his wife Iman, almost half to his children, and a few specific bequests to friends. It appears Bowie used a Will and not a Revocable Living Trust in his estate plan, but this could change as we learn more about Bowie’s plan. Either way, Bowie used powerful planning strategies to save his family from the verge of financial ruin.

We should all follow Bowie’s lead and protect our own families with a thoughtful estate plan.
If you have any estate planning questions, please feel free to call us at (908) 236-6457, or email me at alec@bmcestateplanning.com.
Thanks for reading!

The Passing of an American Legend and the Fight for the Estate He Left Behind

Celebrity Estate Planning, Estate, Estate Planning, B.B. King, Family

Born and raised in the heart of Mississippi on a cotton plantation in the 1920s, B.B. King is more than a legendary musician – he is a legendary American. Over the decades, his emotional performances on his guitar “Lucille” have inspired millions to play the blues, including Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton.

More than anything in the world, King loved to play the blues on his “Lucille,” and you can see it on his face during his performances. In fact, he played and toured well into his late 80s, up until his health prevented him from performing at the level he felt his fans deserved. On May 14, 2015, B.B. King passed away in his Las Vegas home as a result of a series of mini-strokes stemming from his type-2 diabetes.

Unlike some musicians and celebrities, King made wise financial decisions during his lifetime. While he didn’t die a billionaire, he did have a $5 million dollar nest egg saved up, in addition to various forms of revenue through royalty and licensing deals.

Days after the blues legend’s death, his daughters began fighting over King’s estate with the executor named in the will, LaVerne Toney. King’s daughters have alleged the following:

  • Family members were purposely kept away from King in his final days.
  • King was mistreated medically.
  • His funds were siphoned off shortly before his death on May 14, 2015.

Two of King’s daughters, Patty King and Karen Williams, have been especially outspoken and claim that LaVerne Toney and B.B. King’s personal assistant, Myron Johnson, were poisoning the blues legend to hasten his death.

Toney and Johnson have denied the allegations, yet an autopsy must be performed to rule out foul play. The two sisters have also enlisted the help of attorney Benjamin Crump, who previously was involved in the Trayvon Martin case.

When planning your estate, it is important that you only name an individual whom you trust with your life to be your power of attorney (POA). The music and entertainment business is rife with stories about artists and performers who give POA to their business managers only to watch their hard-earned fortunes get pilfered away.

While this does not appear to be the case with B.B. King and LaVerne Toney (in fact to the contrary as they appeared to have a great working relationship), by naming a non-family member as the executor of his will, B.B. King ensured hostility from his 11 daughters.

Questions about estate planning? For experienced estate planning guidance in Union or Hunterdon Counties of New Jersey, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908-236-6457 today.

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