11 July 2023

Contentious celebrity wills from singing legend Prince to disgraced Jimmy Savile

11 July 2023

As two sons of the late Aretha Franklin clash in court over her will, we take a look at other celebrities whose final wishes led to some high-profile disputes.

One of the most dramatic examples of contested celebrity wills in the United States is that of legendary musician Prince. The 'Purple Rain' singer died suddenly in 2016 without leaving a will, which resulted in a complex six-year court battle between his surviving relatives over his estimated $156m estate.

Similarly, Michael Jackson's death in 2009 sparked a contentious legal battle over his will. The 'Thriller' singer's family members contested the validity of the will, which left the bulk of his estate to a family trust, excluding his father, Joseph Jackson.

In the case of James Brown, the 'Godfather of Soul,' the contesting of his will after his death in 2006 led to more than a decade of legal wrangling. His will initially sought to leave his estate to underprivileged students; however, it was challenged by several parties, including some of his children and his companion, Tommie Rae Hynie.

Contested wills are not unique to the United States. In the United Kingdom, one of the most notable cases involved the late TV and radio presenter, Jimmy Savile. After his death in 2011, his £4.3 million estate became the subject of various legal disputes by those who claimed they were sexually abused by Savile.

Another high-profile case in the UK involved Princess Diana. Though not contested in the traditional sense, her will became the subject of global attention due to the different beneficiaries and their respective inheritances. The Princess, whose estate amounted to more than £21m, provided for her two sons, William and Harry, her godchildren and her favourite staff.

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