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10 celebs worth even more dead

Posted on 6 January 2015

Be amazed by the huge sums these dead celebs are still raking in

Dead celebrities or “delebs” as they’re perhaps not affectionately known, often rake in more money dead than they ever did alive.

When a celebrity dies it often triggers renewed interest in their work and exposes them to a whole new audience. So not only is their memory preserved through their work, it’s also firmly preserved in the huge coffers of the family for generations to come.

Here’s just a few famous names worth more (for some, even more) dead than they were alive. You may want to sit down first...

1) Michael Jackson

He’s still number one from beyond the grave.

Believe it or not, when the King of Pop died in 2009 aged just 50, he was $500m in debt. Today, his estate is estimated to be worth $1.5bn.

Since he died, he’s made more money than he ever did in his lifetime, and has sold over 50 million albums. He’s still one of the biggest selling artists on iTunes.

Michael Jackson - SunLife blog

2) Elvis Presley

On to another King. This time of rock’n’roll.

Elvis Presley died at just 42 in 1977 but that didn’t put a stop to his earning power.

Elvis was found dead in a bathroom at Gracelands, his estate in Memphis and now the vast majority of his posthumous income is from Graceland admissions, licensing and merchandising.

The Presley coffers were given another boost by the Cirque du Soleil show ‘Viva Elvis’ in Las Vegas, and are now worth over $55m.

Elvis Presley - SunLife blog

3) James Dean

50s film star James Dean died tragically young in a car accident aged just 24. In films like “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant”, Dean had captured the hearts and minds of teenagers all over America with his rebellious and cool demeanor. No wonder then, that in death he immediately became an icon adorning many a teenager’s wall.

Despite dying almost 60 years ago, endorsements and image licensing continue to earn about $5 million a year.

James Dean - SunLife blog

4) Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe, the star of “The Seven Year itch’ and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” also died tragically young, at just 36. When she died in 1962, her estate was worth less than $100,000. But her image refused to die and she too has become a style icon right around the world, even ‘co-starring’ in a perfume ad recently with Charlize Theron. Licencing deals have earned her estate approximately $6.5 million over the years with more on the way.

Marilyn Monroe - SunLife blog

5) John Lennon

The songwriter, peace activist and former Beatle John Lennon was already a very wealthy man when he was killed in New York City in 1980.

Since his death, his estate continues to rake in money and in 2010, when The Beatles were included in the iTunes store, it was boosted a further $9m. And that doesn’t include other royalties, licencing deals, image rights… the list goes on.

John Lennon - SunLife blog

6) Elizabeth Taylor

As the female lead of choice in Hollywood for many years, Elizabeth Taylor amassed a small fortune during her life, including earnings from her perfume, White Diamonds. Since her death, White Diamonds has enjoyed continued success and the sale of her jewels, art and gowns alone was expected to generate at least $30 million.

Taylor’s image has not been licenced, but if the estate ever finds itself a bit short the option is there...

Elizabeth Taylor - SunLife blog

7) Stieg Larsson

The Swedish author of the incredibly successful Millenium Trilogy, died suddenly in 2004, before The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was published. Sadly, he never experienced his own success or reaped the unimaginably huge rewards for his incredible achievement.

By the end of 2012, more than 63 million copies of the books had been sold worldwide in 44 languages and films made of all three books.

Stieg Larsson - SunLife blog

8) Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol, the avant garde pop artist and creator of The Factory in 1960s always had an eye for what be popular and what would sell.

His instantly recognisable soup cans and multiple portraits of famous friends have been adorning walls across the globe for decades now and certainly long after Warhol’s death in 1987. At the last count, the bucks had rolled in to the tune of approximately $19 million. Not bad for a picture of tomato soup.

Andy Warhol - SunLife blog

9) Charles M. Schulz

Remember Snoopy? Charlie Brown’s loyal, loveable canine companion of “Peanuts” comic strip fame?

When Snoopy’s creator Charles Schulz, died in 2000, it may have meant the end of the cartoons, but TV rights and licensing agreements from clothes to mugs and posters, continue to bolster the Schulz estate, with an estimated value of about $35 million.

Charles Schulz - SunLife blog

10) Albert Einstein

We’ve all heard of him. We all know exactly what he looks like. We know he worked out the formula E=MC2 even if we’re not sure what that means.

Wild haired physicist and all round genius, Albert Einstein died in 1955 but his image is still recognised everywhere and thanks to licencing, his estate is feeling the benefit.

Disney has to pay big money to use his name for their Baby Einstein line. Even T-shirts emblazoned with his face and formula put money in the growing pot, estimated to be worth approximately $20 million.

Albert Einstein - SunLife blog

Oh to be a descendant one of this lot! Unfortunately, most of us aren’t made of money. Have you ever stopped to think about the true cost of someone dying? It may not be something to dwell on, but having of an idea of what funeral and estate administration costs might be, can help you and your family be more prepared when the time comes, making a troubling time less stressful and less challenging on the pockets of those left behind.

Every year, SunLife conducts a comprehensive study into the total cost of dying, to help people understand the costs involved and demonstrate how much these costs have risen by over recent years. Find out the cost of dying in your area.

SunLife offers a range of straightforward and affordable products including over 50s life insurance, funeral plans, life insurance, equity release, pet insurance, home insurance, car insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife? 

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). Phoenix Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 110418). As part of SunLife’s commitment to quality service and security, telephone calls may be recorded.

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity is not authorised or regulated for this activity by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

The funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Ltd which is not authorised or regulated for this activity by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.