If you're a resident of California, there's a decent chance that you may face issues that other residents in different states don't face — especially if you're a celebrity of some type. One issue that people with a recognizable (and marketable) likeness face when estate planning, unlike many other people, is how to plan around the value of themselves and their own image after they pass away. Recently, the estate of Michael Jackson ran into a host issues on the matter.
The issue was taken to court by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and was only just settled at the end of February. According to the IRS, the Prince of Pop's image was worth about $161 million, of which the agency wanted to claim $64 million. As you can see, not preparing for this issue can leave those handling your estate in a tricky situation that may effect the ones you love immensely.
In broad terms, it is possible to treat your likeness like just about any other income-producing asset and plan accordingly. You might choose to use a charitable bequest and pass on the rights to your likeness to the charitable foundation of your choice, or possibly place the rights in a trust or business entity and gift it to your beneficiaries. It is also possible to institute a time limit on how long your likeness may be exploited.
Every situation is different, and it is not easy to know how your own likeness and image will affect your seat. However, you do not want to leave a mess for the ones you love when you pass away, so it is always wise to consult with an experienced attorney who understands the nuances of high-asset estate planning. With proper legal counsel, you can rest assured that your rights will remain protected — all of them.
Source: Bloomberg Business News, "Michael Jackson Estate-Tax Woes Provide Lesson for Celebrities," Allyson Versprille, Feb. 28, 2017