Lisa Marie Presley | Elvis Estate Heartbreak
Despite rumors and numerous alleged sightings, Elvis Presley, the King of Rock N Roll, died in 1977. At the time of his death, Elvis’ only daughter, Lisa Marie, was only 9 years old, but she became the heir to his estate, worth in 1977 a relatively modest $5 million. It would have been much more but for Elvis’ penchant for bad business deals and a life of excess. According to Elvis’ will, Lisa Marie’s inheritance was kept in a Trust, known as the Promenade Trust, which through his ex-wife Priscilla’s stewardship grew to an estimated $100+ million when Lisa Marie gained control.
In the ensuing 12 years, the Promenade Trust owned Graceland as well as the royalty stream of Elvis Presley Enterprises. By then, Lisa Marie had been married and divorced three times, including two short-lived marriages to Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage. Like her father, she was also known to be a free-spender, reportedly incurring debts in excess of $20 million. In order to eliminate her debt, Lisa Marie’s business manager at the time, Barry Siegel, sold 85% of her share in Elvis Presley Enterprises. That transaction reportedly netted her $40 million, even after all her debts were eliminated. What became of the money? Apparently, her manager invested at least part of it in Core Entertainment, the company behind American Idol, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2016.
As a result of some questionable business decisions, by 2018 the value of Lisa Marie’s inheritance reportedly dwindled to $14,000 in cash and $500,000 in credit card debt. At that point, she fired her manager and sued him for breach of trust, negligence and constructive fraud, for mismanaging and squandering her $100 million fortune. That lawsuit, filed in 2018, remains in litigation and may take years to resolve. Siegel, for his part, has counter-sued Presley for $800,000 for non-payment.
Whether the inheritance from Elvis Presley has now been spent or squandered, and whether Lisa Marie is destitute or not, are questions that have recently taken on a slightly different significance thanks to the disintegration of Lisa Marie’s fourth marriage to musician Michael Lockwood in 2016.
The two married in 2006, and Lockwood signed a post-nuptial agreement in 2007. Because a court ruled that Lisa Marie was not required to pay for spousal support, as a result of that agreement, that could have been the end of the issue. But Lockwood’s attorneys have argued that Lisa Marie has “not disclosed her assets or their values” in their divorce proceedings. Although Lockwood is not entitled to support, he apparently hopes to lay claim to some of his ex-wife’s assets. Are those assets now worthless or are they worth millions? It seems likely that courts and judges will eventually have to sort those issues out.
The takeaway from the continuing legal battles over the Elvis Presley estate is clear: just like a share of stock, the value of inheritance can go up and down over the years. Considering he was a profligate rock star, Elvis provided quite well for his family, and thanks to prudent decision-making, the value of his inheritance increased dramatically over the years since his death.
The key to maintaining the value of an inheritance is both in good management but also especially in establishing a system whereby heirs don’t become their own worst enemies through reckless spending or ill-advised investments. To do that requires some sophisticated, professional, and forward-thinking estate planning, which is something I always recommend to Hackard Law’s clients.
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