15 Celebrities Who Have Passed Away But Still Earn Millions
Although the vast majority of people will earn all of their income during their own lifetime, that is not always the case. While most celebrities and famous figures would probably prefer that they had accumulated their wealth while still alive, licensing fees, commercial rights and continuing sales of their releases means that it is possible for them to earn big money even after their deaths.
Incredibly popular musicians and artists are likely to remain so, even when they have passed away, with millions still buying their records. Meanwhile, advertising agencies and other media are constantly looking to license the rights to music to help sell their products. Other times, companies might want to use the name or likeness of a departed celebrity to increase their popularity and status. This constantly increases the amount of income that estates can bring in, even decades after their providers sadly died.
Many people will not recognize the name Stieg Larsson but his writings have proved to be incredibly popular. Although he died in 2004 before the publication of his hit series, known as The Millennium Trilogy, the three novels have proved to be unbelievably successful. They have sold almost 50 million copies between them and have also been adapted into hit films that have achieved similar success. These endeavors have earned his estate an estimated $10 million per year since their publication.
Jenni Rivera has continued to be a big earner despite her tragic death in 2012. Various publications and releases of material in 2013 and 2014 proved to be successful, with her autobiography selling almost half a million copies. Meanwhile, her music has remained popular, with official records showing that since her death almost 1 million of her records have been sold. When combined with the income from her reality TV show I Love Jenni, her estate has earned somewhere in the region of $7 million each year.
It’s entirely possible that you will be unaware of the name Theodor Geisel as he released the vast majority of his work under a pseudonym. Better known as Dr. Seuss, this writer and cartoonist has been responsible for some of the most popular children’s books of all time, including the likes of The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Horton Hears a Who! This popularity means that his books continue to sell many copies despite the fact that Geisel died in 1991 aged 87. With the addition of TV shows and feature films based on his creations, it is estimated that he still earns in the region of $9 million a year.
Due to his electric performances and long-lasting popularity, Jimi Hendrix has been able to continue providing for his estate long after his death. Sales of his previously released music alongside new albums, special edition records and DVDs have ensured that a steady stream of income is constantly making its way to the Hendrix estate. Further income has been made from his appearance on merchandise, while his music is a popular choice to be licensed for movies, advertising and television. This means that Hendrix earns approximately $7 million every year.
Bruce Lee is perhaps the most famous martial artist in history. His unique fighting style, stylized stunts and expert skill meant that he appeared in a number of high profile martial arts films, including Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, and Enter the Dragon. He has continued to earn significantly since his death thanks to posthumous releases, the popularity of his previous releases and the fact that his likeness is well sought after. This has pushed his annual earnings to around $7 million, a figure that could rise in the future thanks to upcoming films that will use his image and name with CGI recreations of him.
Scientists don’t tend to earn big money, even in their lifetime. However, being one of the most famous faces in history has its benefits, even for those in academic lines of employment. Einstein was a household name after World War II thanks to his pioneering work on nuclear physics and the theory of relativity and his stature has only grown since he died in 1955. Because of his highly recognizable image and respected name, his likeness is still well sought after to be used on scientific equipment, electronic gadgets and other products. Estimates put his earnings on around $10 million a year.
Bettie Page is one of the best known models and actresses of all time and earned millions of dollars in her lifetime for putting her name to various businesses and products in addition to her direct fees for modelling and acting. Since her passing, she is still earning power in her name and likeness, with fashion firms, advertising agencies and her own range of boutiques all taking advantage of her great legacy. This earns her estate around $10 million every year.
As arguably the world’s most famous woman, Marilyn Monroe has always been able to earn large sums of cash, not only for her acting and modelling but also from putting her name and image to a huge variety of products. With Monroe still being remembered as something of a sex symbol and the epitome of glamour, companies are still eager to use her to help sell their perfumes, clothing and other items to customers. This ensures that even fifty years after her death, Monroe is still able to earn more than $10 million every year.
Steven McQueen became something of a cult figure during his lifetime after appearing in movies such as The Great Escape, The Towering Inferno, and The Magnificent Seven. These successful films ensured that McQueen could get a string of rewarding endorsements from companies such as Tag Heuer and Persol. His estate continues to benefit from these partnerships long after his death, with a variety of products and services having a strong association with the actor.
Unlike some of the other people on this list, it’s entirely understandable to expect someone like John Lennon to be on this list. He was part of one of the biggest bands in the history of music and also co-wrote the vast majority of the material with Paul McCartney. Along with his solo music and other work, such as writings and paintings, Lennon continues to earn more than $12 million every year thanks to companies licensing his music, image, name and other work to use in a wide range of products and services.
When Bob Marley died tragically at the age of just 36, it seemed obvious that his estate would continue to earn handsomely. Not only is his music as popular as it ever was when he was alive – with those rights worth millions every year – but the Marley brand has grown into other areas. Pictures of the music star are commonplace on posters, t-shirts and even in advertisements while other businesses set up in his name, such as the House of Marley music store, have also grown into successful ventures. No wonder then that enigmatic reggae star is able to pull in up to $18 million per year.
Elizabeth Taylor became one of the biggest film stars of all time with her appearances in films such as Cleopatra, A Place in the Sun, Giant, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She cemented her place in the movie industry as one of its biggest stars and also had successful forays into fashion and modelling. Her iconic look and sex symbol status ensures that advertisers and marketing firms still want to use her image to help give their products star quality. Additionally, a string of successful businesses and investments mean that her estate continues to earn in excess of $20 million per year.
Charles M. Schulz
Although Charles M. Schulz is far from a household name, in fact many probably wouldn’t even recognize the man if they saw a picture of him, he was responsible for two of the most iconic cartoon characters of all time. Schulz passed away in 2000, but his legacy lives on in the form of the characters Charlie Brown and Snoopy. As creator of the Peanuts comic-strip, the cartoonist is still able to bring in large quantities of money from sales of the strips, while in-demand characters like Snoopy are licensed around the world helping to earn his estate an incredibly $37 million per year.
As one of the biggest and most popular musicians of all time, it should surprise no one that Elvis Presley is still earning mega bucks long after his death. His music remains intensely prominent, helping to fuel sales of albums, while many films, television shows and commercials also make use of his songs which also accumulates income through licensing fees. Meanwhile, the image of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll still has pulling power, with his likeness appearing on all sorts of media. All of this means that the estate of Presley can earn as much as $55 million in a single year.
Michael Jackson was never a stranger to earning huge amounts of revenue from all sorts of endeavors. While his principal source of income remained his music, he has also licensed his name and likeness to a variety of products while also investing in music catalogs so that he owns the rights to a whole host of songs by The Beatles. Following his unexpected death in 2009, sales of his past music skyrocketed to new heights. Since then, further releases of previously unheard music has also been sold, helping to ensure that Jackson can often make more money in a year than living artists, typically in the region of $150 million.