Bob Marley died intestate, at the age of 36, on May 11, 1981. Although he had known that he was terminally ill for some time before his death some say that due to Marley’s Rastafarian faith he did not create a will, meaning that he died intestate.
If Jamaican intestacy law applied his wife Rita would receive 10% of his assets, plus a life estate of 45% and his children would be entitled to equal shares in the remaining 45% of the estate. However the absence of a will meant that the family had no rights to Marley’s name, likeness, and image, which was the largest asset of the estate.
Instead of allowing the assets to pass under Jamaican law, two of Marley’s business advisors fraudulently prepared a series of documents, and convinced Rita Marley to forge her late husbands signature transferring to her the control of most of Marley’s corporate holdings, royalty rights and money. When this scheme was uncovered the estate administrator, Mutual Security Merchant Bank and Trust Company, sued the business advisors, and Rita Marley was removed as an administrator. It was also the beginning of decades long litigation against the estate.
In the early 90′s, the family sued the estate for the exclusive right to use Marley’s name, likeness and image for commercial purposes. As his widow Rita and all of Marley’s children could exploit (as well as stop others from profiting from) his name, likeness and image, Marley’s estate is now considered one of the most lucrative of any musician.
If Marley had a valid will not only could he have directed who would manage his estate and legacy it is less likely that his estate would have been open to fraud or decades of legal proceedings.
The lack of a will increases the time, expense, and stress of administering an estate at an already difficult time for the deceased’s family.