Beyond The Grave: The Highest Paid Dead Celebrities

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Top-tier celebrities still manage to generate revenue for themselves even after they’ve died. Their heirs and loved ones reap the benefits of their money-making abilities, but without the merchandise sales, copyright fees, and estate values their memories would still linger on. These are top 40 celebrities who continue to have a place in our hearts and apparently in our bank accounts.

Muhammad Ali

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Muhammad Ali may have been one of the most shocking deaths of 2016, but his net worth is still alive and kicking. The deceased boxer’s estimated value is $50 million and his private estate is expected to bring in millions for his surviving family members. The boxing legend makes plenty of dough off the athletic merchandise sold underneath his name, although the family is currently in dispute over who will inherit this continuing fortune.

David Bowie

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David Bowie has either died or just returned to his home planet… either way, the pop culture icon left behind a hefty estate and a new album that debuted at number one on the billboard charts. Half of his $100 million fortune and legacy is left behind to his wife, Iman, and will continue generating revenue through his music rights. Bowie is also suspected of having investment funds equivalent to millions, but no one can be sure just yet.

Elvis Presley

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Elvis Presley fans everywhere checked into heartbreak hotel when the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll died in his early 40s, but because of this early exit, the deacessed rockstar has made millions after his death. Tourists and old-school fans visit Graceland to experience a piece of Presley’s life and memory, paying a lot money to do so in the process. Last year alone, Presley made $55 million between the Graceland exhibit and the album “Elvis Presley Forever.”

Bettie Page

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Even after her low-key death in 2008, Bettie Page is still inspiring girls and women alike to dress like her. The pin-up model’s net worth is $20 million but is pulling in $10 million a year for clothing and lingerie sales. The year after she died she only generated about $6 million in revenue but merchandise sales under the star’s name have increased heavily since then.

Steve McQueen

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Steve McQueen was one of the ‘coolest’ action stars of the 70s and his income since his death over 35 years stands as testament. The late celebrity reportedly brings in around $9 million a year with his appearances in public adverts, making hefty contributions to his left-behind estate.

Albert Einstein

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You’d expect to hear that Albert Einstien’s estate continuously makes money because of the scientific research he left behind for the world to inherit. Wrong! The late, great scientist generates a crazy amount of revenue because of status in the pop culture realm – his merchandise sales bring in a reported $11 million. The money is transferred to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who has held the rights to Einstein’s estate since 2015.

Bob Marley

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Bob Marley still brings home the bacon, even if home is about six feet underground. Because of the reggae artist’s music and merchandise sales, this universally loved musician racks in about $21 million in revenue. He also makes a large profit off the House of Marley and the Marley Beverage Company.

Dr. Seuss

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Theodore Giesel, also known as Dr. Seuss, left behind one of the greatest legacies the world has ever seen. Even after his death in 1991, he continues to make money off of the rights to his book sales and film adaptations. Seuss also makes a generous profit from Universal Studio’s Seussland, located in their Islands of Adventure theme park.

Prince

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Like Bowie and Presley, Prince left his fan base and family members in tears after his death in early 2016. He exited the world with a net worth of $300 million but will generate profit off of his lengthy discography. His posthumous album sales will continue to bring in a large sum of money, but the late musician’s estate is still in a whirlwind of confusion since late April.

Paul Walker

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Paul Walker died two years ago in a fatal car crash that would alter the fate of widely-known franchise The Fast and The Furious. However, after the seventh installment of the saga was released, Walker brought home (in spirit) $10.5 million in revenue. His $25 million fortune was left to his only daughter, Meadow.

Elizabeth Taylor

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Elizabeth Taylor’s annual income fluctuates each posthumous year, but she continues to make an exceptional profit regardless of the source. In 2012, Taylor made $210 million from her personal jewelry auction and was reported to have another $20 million by 2016 due in large part to perfume sales. Her estate is worth $1 billion today.

Frank Sinatra

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Frank Sinatra may not be the richest dead celebrity, but he’s doing okay considering the circumstances. His music catalog still generates a large profit and a collection of books and box sets still sell worldwide. His annual income is rarely reported but by 2016 his estate in now worth $100 million. Business is still booming for this dead celeb.

Charles Schulz

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Charles Schulz created one of the most iconic cartoons in television (and newspaper) history. Through the ‘Peanuts’ legacy the cartoonist still makes around $40 million annually and is expected to see an increase in his estate after the release of the Peanuts movie.

Michael Jackson

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Michael Jackson has been, and will continue to be, the top-paid dead celebrity in 2015 and 2016. The King of Pop’s estate is worth over $1 billion and made a record-shattering $140 million from 2015- 2016. Jackson’s posthumous album, “Xscape,” and his presence as a hologram at the 2015 Billboard Awards catapulted his net worth to a staggering $600 million.

John Lennon

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John Lennon may have said “all you need is love,” but if he could see how much money he’d be making by 2016 we’re pretty sure he’d rethink his original motto. The late Beatle made an estimated $12 million in 2015 due to continued record sales and rights of song catalog.

Marilyn Monroe

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It’s hardly a surprise that Marilyn Monroe is one dead celebrity with a generous income. The icon’s flux in profit is mainly attributed to clothing and lingerie sales, much like Bettie Page, but other merchandise such as wall posters and MAC makeup sales contribute to this revenue as well. In 2015, the blonde bombshell made $17 million.

Arnold Palmer

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Our latest celebrity death of 2016 is the legendary golf player, Arnold Palmer. Before he died on September 26th, he had accumulated an estate of $675 million. He was an active businessman who developed a bestselling beverage named after himself and had a successful career that led to many sponsorships and advertisements. It will be interesting to see which number spot he lands on Forbe’s richest dead celebrities list in 2017.

Maya Angelou

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When Maya Angelou passed away in 2014 she left behind her $28 million estate. The poet had two properties equating the amount of $1.5 million and generated revenue from book sales and public appearances up until her death. Although her annual income and financials are kept secret by her surviving children, they inherited the late activist’s fortune.

Bruce Lee

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Kung-Fu Master, Bruce Lee, made a name for himself that would live through the martial arts ages. Lee generates much-deserved revenue from movie rights and his $10 million estate is run by his daughter, Shannon. In 2013, Bruce made $7 million from the release of just one short-film where the actor made a magical appearance.

James Dean

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In death, James Dean makes the most money from the use of his image on clothing articles. In 2015, the late actor made $8 million from t-shirt sales and was reportedly making $3 million annually in the early 2000s. Live fast, die young, make a lot of money.

Jenni Rivera

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After her death in 2012, Jenni Rivera accumulated $7 million in profit from ground-breaking record sales. The Mexican-American singer sold over 800,000 since her death, and her reality TV show collected an audience of five million members. Her autobiography Unbreakable: My Story also contributed to her posthumous earnings.

Andy Warhol

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Long after Andy Warhol’s death, his estate has reached an estimated value of $19 million.The late artist generates revenue from companies such as Barney’s and Levi Strauss that work with the Andy Warhol foundation in manufacturing copies of his original work.

Jerry Garcia

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Jerry Garcia may have been another musician dedicated to the love, but that didn’t stop him from making millions after his death. His estate has grown to $5 million dollars in recent years due to heavy merchandise sales. The top item for profit is most likely his $3,000 box-set of personal artwork. His widow runs Jerrygarcia.com and sells the merch herself.

Rodgers & Hammerstein

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Perhaps the great musical theater duo to ever grace the stage, Rodgers and Hammerstein have created masterpieces like Cinderella and The Sound of Music. The pair has generated $235 million in revenue since the composers’ final curtain call many years ago. They still profit off the royalties of musicals such as South Pacific, The King and I, and Oklahoma.

Yves Saint Laurent

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In 2013, Yves Saint Laurent made a whopping $443 million from the grave. The designer’s art collection was sold at an auction after his death. Half of the profits went to his estate, while the other half went to charity. His fashion company has achieved earnings as large as half a million dollars.

J.R.R. Tolkien

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J.R.R. Tolkien has made $7 million since the Lord of the Rings franchise hit the silver screen. His book sales increased after the movies were released, which obviously made their own hefty profit that primarily went to Peter Jackson. The fantasy writer’s estate hasn’t looked so profitable since his death in 1973.

Jimi Hendrix

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Jimi Hendrix’s music catalog isn’t the only thing skyrocketing his estate way after his death in 1970. Ad campaigns that feature his music, merchandise sales, and live DVDs have accumulated $7 million in profit for the former voodoo child. Before his overdose, he had a net worth of $175 million.

Stieg Larsson

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Stieg Larsson died in 2004 before he could he see his book series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, become an international best-selling book and eventual movie franchise. After his death, he achieved $7 million in profit from book sales and the movie rights. Unfortunately, Larsson is another artist who didn’t get to enjoy the rewards of his hard work.

George Harrison

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George Harrison may have been one of the lesser-talked-about Beatles, but his significance to the group and their music hasn’t go unnoticed. Known as the “Quiet Beatle,” he died in 2001 just before cutting a contract with Cirque Du Soleil. He has acquired $7 million towards his estate from solo record sales and the Cirque Du Soleil royalties which showcase the Beatles’ song catalog.

Kurt Cobain

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Kurt Cobain has pulled in $50 million since his death in 1994. The late musician took his own life (allegedly) in a drug-infested state and changed the music industry forever. Countless biopics, his song catalog, and merchandise sales have given him greater wealth in death than in life. His fanbase despises his estate’s new net worth, feeling that the tortured soul would have disproved of the material aspect of wealth.

Ray Charles

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After Ray Charles’ death in 2004, the iconic musician would fade into the background with only his most loyal fans still listening to his amazing music. The same year he passed away a biopic named Ray was released and brought on a new wave of popularity for the deceased singer. Charles’ estate jumped to $10 million after the movie’s release, along with his album and DVD sales.

Johnny Cash

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Johnny Cash experienced the same type of resurgence that Ray Charles did in the early 2000s. After he followed his wife June to the other side in 2003, Cash sparked a record selling spike that only increased after Walk the Line‘s release in 2006. He generated a profit of $8 million and the “man in black” was back on top and celebrated by the world once again.

Amy Winehouse

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Amy Winehouse spent a large portion of her fortune on drugs and alcohol but was sure to exclude ex-husband Blake Civil-Fielder from her will before her death. She left behind an estate worth $6.7 million, with a posthumous album and clothing line that brings in the money even after her passing. Her studio, Lioness, made over $150 million in profit, but her father maintains that the money went to the Amy Winehouse Foundation instead of to her estate.

Steve Jobs

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Jobs left behind a fortune of $14 billion that was inherited by his wife, Laurene. Before his death, Steve had invested in multiple real estate properties, kept his Apple shares safe, and had an ownership stake in Disney. By 2015, his estate had jumped from 14 to $19 billion.

Tupac Shakur

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Even though Tupac may not actually be dead, he’s still one of the most successful deceased celebrities around. Since his hotly-debated death in the 90s, the rapper has sold 75 million records worldwide and 11 posthumous albums that have gone platinum. His estate is now worth $9 million and since his debut as a “hologram” in 2012 his net worth has jumped to $40 million.

Keith Haring

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Graphic artist Keith Haring, died in the early 90s at the age of 31 from AIDS. At the time of his death his estate was estimated to be worth $25 million and reportedly makes $4 million annually since the late 90s. His paintings sell for anywhere between $50,000 to $1 million.

Heath Ledger

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Heath Ledger is rumored to have been a product of his role as The Joker. His estate, which was left to his daughter Matilda, was worth $16 million when he died and he continued to profit off the second installment of The Dark Knight franchise. He reportedly made over $10 million for the film, which went to his estate and unfortunately, not into his wallet.

Marvin Gaye

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Marvin Gaye was a top-earning dead celebrity in the mid-2000s when Mo-Town records enthusiastically celebrated its 50th anniversary. The late singer made $3.5 million off of his participation in two biopics and re-mastered album sales. He soon faded into the background but is still pretty rich for a buried celebrity.

Aaron Spelling

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Aaron Spelling created one of television’s most iconic teenage dramas, so it’s no surprise that he’d be raking in even after his death. He left a fortune of $600 billion for his wife Candy, who now runs the estate and collects the profits from the “Beverly Hills: 90210” royalties under his name.