Jenny Rozelle, Host of Legal Tea
Celebrity Estate Planning - Lisa Marie Presley - Episode 83
Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners! This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. Today, we’re on the “estate planning of the rich and famous” topic and for today’s episode, we’re going to dive into someone that so recently passed away and it somewhat came out of the blue – Lisa Marie Presley is who today’s episode is on. I say “somewhat out of the blue” because the day or two before she passed away, she was the Golden Globes awards show, sort of, on behalf of a 2022 film about her father, Elvis Presley, which was up for (and ended up winning) an award. The film was called, “Elvis.” At the show, Lisa Marie was present along with her mother, Priscilla. Just a day or two later, Lisa Marie went into cardiac arrest and died on January 12, 2023 at the age of 54. Before we dive into what is going on estate-wise, let’s talk a little bit about Lisa Marie first as a person…
According to her Wikipedia page, Lisa Marie was born on February 1st, 1968 and was the only daughter of Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley. (I don’t think I realized she was the only kiddo!) When Lisa Marie was four years old when Elvis and Priscilla decided to get a divorce – then, a few years later, Elvis, her Dad and the King of Rock and Roll, died in 1977 when Lisa Marie was nine years old. Following her Dad’s passing, a Last Will and Testament was discovered – and a rather uniquely-drafted one, if I do say so myself. In the source links for this episode, you can find a direct link to Elvis’ Will. Anyway, the way he set it up was that at his passing, a trust was setup through his Will to benefit Lisa Marie, his grandmother, Minnie, his father, Vernon, and “other relatives who are in need of emergency assistance.” Then, once Minnie and Vernon passed, the trust continued for the SOLE benefit of Lisa Marie. It continued until she turned 25 – which, at that time, the trust would be liquidated and distributed to Lisa Marie outright.
Over the course of her life, Lisa Marie was married four times and had four children. Her first marriage was to a musician named Danny Keough (KEY-OH) and together, they had two children – a daughter, Riley, and a son, Benjamin. Twenty days after her divorce from Danny, Lisa Marie married Michael Jackson (yes, THE Michael Jackson). They had no children together. Next, she married Nicholas Cage *yes, again … THE Nicholas Cage) for a very short period of time (like a few months). Lisa Marie and Nicholas had no children together. Finally, she married a Michael Lockwood – and together, they had twin girls, Harper and Finley. After ten years of married, Lisa Marie and Michael got a divorce. Sadly, Lisa Marie’s son, Benjamin, died in 2020. So, at the time of Lisa Marie’s passing, she was single and had three children.
Okay, shifting to Lisa Marie’s Estate now…
So following her Dad’s passing, she ended up inheriting at 25 years old (remember, that’s when she could inherit outright and free-of-the-trust that her Dad had created in his Will), according to a Wealth Management.com piece by Anna Silkin, Lisa Marie inherited approximately $100 Million Dollars in 1993. There are reports that much of her inheritance has been, in the article’s words, “squandered due to mismanagement and bad investments.” Though, she appeared to have made some good choices because according to the website, Elvis.com, after Lisa Marie turned 25, she elected to form a new Trust, the Elvis Presley Trust, to continue the operation of SOME of her father’s estate, like Graceland for example. Through its setup, a business entity, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., was established too.
Then, a few years later, specifically in 2005, Lisa Marie sold a rather sizable interest in the company to CKX, Inc. but excluded Graceland and the property from the sale. That means, she, and the Elvis Presley Trust she had created, retained 100% ownership of Graceland – the property itself and all of her Dad’s personal property/contents inside. So, what was sold, you ask? What was sold was really, according to the Wealth Management piece by Sulkin, was like the publishing rights to about 650 of Elvis’ songs – so more intangible things rather than the tangible things. Did you know … speaking of all this Elvis talk … that according to a Forbes article by Kelly Erb … that Elvis Presley is #4 on the list of “highest paid dead celebrities of 2022.” Crazy, right?
Shortly after Lisa Marie’s passing, a representative at Graceland announced and confirmed that Lise Marie’s daughter, Riley, Harper, and Finley would be the rightful inheritors of Graceland and the “financial benefits” from it. They further shared that the management and operation of Graceland would remain as-is, but the financial benefits of Graceland would be directed through the Elvis Presley Trust and to Lisa Marie’s three daughters. Just for sake of reference, Riley, the oldest daughter of Lisa Marie, is currently in her early 30s (specifically 33) and Harper and Finley, the twins, are in their mid-teens (currently 14).
I think Lisa Marie’s estate is a really good one to learn from -- because she has many moving parts. So, we just talked about the Elvis Presley Trust she had created following the passing of her father. If all goes according to plan (and so far, so good), the Elvis Presley Trust will stay out of Lisa Marie’s personal estate. The reason is because assets in the Trust are Trust-held, meaning they are not held in the name of Lisa Marie, individually. However, at Lisa Marie’s passing, she DID have personal assets (and debts) that will need to be addressed, so let’s shift now to Lisa Marie’s estate (like her personal estate, not the Trust).
According to Sulkin’s article, Lisa Marie was having some financial trouble in 2016 – this was made somewhat public in some Court filings that occurred in 2016. In those filings, Lisa Marie claimed to have more than $16 Million Dollars in debt, including owing the IRS $1 Million in taxes. In the same filings, Lisa Marie shared she had about $95,000 in cash and $715,000 in investments, but also hinted at some rather lavish spending … like, to the tune of $92,000 in monthly expense, which included $23,000 for rent and nearly $2,000 in a car payment (for her Maserati).
2016 wasn’t all that long ago – so with these kind of figures, it’s likely that Lisa Marie’s personal estate administration may get a tad messy, especially since it sounds like she wasn’t managing her finances the best in the world. Sulkin shares some insight from a Cynthia Brittan, who is an attorney/partner at Karlin & Peebles, a law firm in Los Angeles. Brittain explains, “Lisa Marie’s history of financial troubles could certainly slow down the estate administration process…It’s likely in this situation that U.S. estate taxes will be due and her estate will need to be valued in order to determine her estate’s US estate tax liability.” I agree with Ms. Brittain. Lisa Marie JUST recently passed away, so we probably don’t even have the beginning drama of what may ensure – especially because going through a court process will open the can of worms with creditors. So, right now, we’re sort of at a “TBD” as to what may happen estate value-wise, creditor-wise, etc.
On that note, as I just shared, even though there’s a lot of talk in the news right now about Lisa Marie’s Will – she actually had a Revocable Living Trust for her personal assets, not a Will. I think many news articles are just saying the wrong “legal term” – but yes, she had a Trust and it was created in January 1993. According to the Forbes article by Erb, in 2010, Lisa Marie did what’s called a Restatement – which means that she had some changes to make and they were made via a Restatement which fully replaces the original document and the terms of that document. Finally, in 2016, Lisa Marie made another Amendment and that’s what there is some recent news-headline-making drama about. The drama is actually starting from her mother, Priscilla, claiming that the 2016 Amendment that Lisa Marie made to her Trust is questionable.
According to a CNN article by Chloe Melas, Priscilla is contesting Lisa Marie’s Amendment and questioning the validity of it. In that 2016 Amendment, Lisa Marie, through that Amendment, supposedly removed Priscilla and business manager, Barry Siegel, as Co-Trustees and replaced them with her two children, Riley and Benjamin. (Of course, this Amendment occurred prior to Benjamin’s passing in 2020.) In Priscilla’s Court filing, Priscilla claimed that Lisa Marie didn’t inform her about the change (which according to the Forbes article by Erb, she was required to inform the Trustees of the change – which the Trustees were Priscilla and Barry), that the document actually misspelled Priscilla’s name, and that the Amendment was not witnessed/notarized. She further alleged the legitimacy of Lisa Marie’s signature. So yeah, she’s alleging a lot!
That is the latest happening related to Lisa Marie’s estate. I’m writing this episode at the beginning of February, so I’m 100% certain there will be plenty more updates on Lisa’s Marie’s estate, the Trust, her Will, Priscilla’s filing, etc. This case is really causing some waves – funny enough, while I have been writing this episode, I’ve had like 4-5 people reach out and say, “Hey, if you haven’t done an episode on Lisa Marie Presley, sounds like that would be a good one for your podcast!” I told all of them, “I’m actually writing an episode on her estate RIGHT NOW!” Funny that people see this kind of estate stuff/drama and now think of my podcast – love it!
This episode is kind of a nice follow-up to my recent episode where I talked about informing the people in your plan about your plan, IF, and only if, you feel that is appropriate. I have to wonder if this Amendment to Lisa Marie’s Trustis about to cause WWIII – perhaps Priscilla is a little hurt that Lisa Marie didn’t keep her in the loop, or maybe what she’s arguing is actually valid and there was some funny business that happened. Who knows. Nonetheless, Lisa Marie’s estate, as in where we stand now and probably what we’ll learn in the future, is a really good one to get educated on estate stuff. Between the Trust holding Graceland, her Trust, etc., there’s a lot one can take away and learn about estate planning, estate planning options, etc. from Lisa Marie’s estate. So, even though this episode is coming VERY early in the process of Lisa Marie’s estate administration process, do keep an eye on things – and if you have any questions about what happens, feel free to reach out to me at LegalTeaPodcast@gmail.com or you can find me on most social media channels – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’ll try to post updates on this case, for sure!
Alrighty, I think we’re ready to wrap this episode up, shall we? Next week we’re back to a “cautionary tale” episode where we talk about real-life clients, real-life cases that I, or my office, have worked on. During that episode, we’re going to be talking about a common thing I keep seeing/talking to people about … and it’s what happens when the attorney that did you estate plan retires, passes away, etc. This has hit my little world a lot recently (I even had one recently where the attorney didn’t retire or die … but just straight up stopped practicing and went, sort of, M.I.A. on his clients…crazy, right?!) I just think it’d be really prudent (and interesting) to chat through this topic. So, tune in for that next week, but until then, Legal Tea Listeners,– take care and be well!