Jim Morrison died on July 2 1971, from a heroin overdose with an estate worth $400,000. Some years before he died, Morrison created a will leaving everything to his common law wife, Pamela Courson, and if she failed to survive Morrison by three months, then his assets would pass to his brother and sister.
After Jim Morrison died, his estate was tied up in litigation in probate court. Women came forward claiming that Morrison was the father of their children. The other members of the Doors sued the estate claiming that there were outstanding cash advances that had been paid to Morrison.
In early 1974 the court recognised Courson as Morrison’s heir. Courson died in April 1974 without a Will therefore under intestacy law Jim Morrison’s estate comprising a quarter of the Doors future royalty income, and rights in Morrison’s image passed to her parents.
Morrison’s parents litigation for a share of the estate ended several years later in an out-of-court settlement with the Morrison’s taking half of the royalties and the Courson’s controlling the rights to manage and control Morrison’s image, music, and royalties.
In the early 1970’s, things like a persons image and personality rights were not considered particularly important, at the time intellectual property law provided that royalties from Morrison’s lyrics would have ceased in the mid 1990’s however, this has been extended by legislation until at least 2041. Today there is a growing market for products the bear a celebrities likeness.
If Pamela Courson had made a Will she could have directed her estate in a manner that reflected Jim Morrison’s wishes. As it was Mr Courson who controlled Morrison’s image, music and royalties disliked him, however he did a lot to encourage the Morrison mystique by entering into commercial arrangements to exploit his likeness. Morrison’s parents did not have a close relationship with him before he died, with Morrison claiming that his parents were dead yet received half of his royalties.