It’s been 47 years since Marilyn Monroe died. I know because I just finished reading her biography by J. Randy Tarraborelli entitled The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe. (Good book by the way.) Being an estate planning attorney, of course I was curious to see what happened to Marilyn’s estate.
Marilyn fortunately had the foresight to get at least some of her affairs in order (she had good legal counsel in this regard) before she died. She signed her Will in 1961, the year before she died. This was critical because Marilyn was single (thrice divorced actually) and didn’t have any children. Under Florida law anyway (she was actually either a California or a New York resident—she had residences in both places), her mother would have inherited her entire estate if she had tied “intestate” (without a valid Will). This would have been disasterous as her mother was institutionalized most of her life with severe mental illness.
Instead, Marilyn made various specific gifts upon her death, including the sum of $100,000 to be held in trust for the benefit of her mother for her life, and then the remaining balance to various individuals close to her in her life. She gave the bulk of her estate, a full 50%, to her acting teaching, Lee Strasburg. Lee’s long-time wife who was good friends with Marilyn died five years after Marilyn. Lee remarried a year later to Anna, a woman 40 years his junior. Lee died in 1982 and Anna, his second wife who may have met Marilyn once before, inherited his entire estate which included the inheritance from Marilyn.
“Today, Anna Strasberg holds the bulk of Marilyn’s estate, which, according to Forbes magazine’s most recent list of income generated by dead celebrities, ranks Marilyn at number eight, with $8 million accumulated in royalties and merchandising in 2007. It should be noted, though, that when Marilyn died, she did not die a wealth woman. Millions accumulated for her estate after her death as a result of merchandising of her name, as well as money generated from her films.” The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, page 341, footnote.
Another interesting postscript for you about Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn is buried in a crypt in the famous Westwood Cemetary in West Los Angeles . The crypt directly above Marilyn was recently auctioned off on EBay by the widow of the man buried there. Apparently Elsie Poncher wanted to move her late husband to a new burial site and auction off his crypt to raise money for her own children’s inheritance! The auction pulled in top dollar too selling for over $4.6million. The winning bidder can now “spend eternity on top of Marilyn Monroe”!