How long does an estate exist after someone dies?

I read in Parade Magazine recently that Elvis is still one of the most highly-paid musicians, with his estate still getting something like $27 million of revenue in 2016.

Elvis has been dead for 40 years. Shouldn’t his estate’s assets, including copyrights, have been distributed to his heirs long ago, and those heirs receiving the revenues directly? Why does an estate still exist?

My question isn’t specifically about Elvis but he makes for a good example.

Interesting question! I’d always assumed that estate in this sense was just shorthand for ‘the inheritors and any businesses they set up to manage IP’.

My understanding is that Parade is using “estate” in a somewhat loose sense, as in “all of the heirs and beneficiaries” rather than “legal entity in probate court.”

Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., currently owned mostly by the Authentic Brands Group (which also owns rights to Marilyn Monroe’s name, Frederick’s of Hollywood, Muhammad Ali, etc.), is the majority owner of the rights to Elvis’s intellectual property, such as his image and likeness, merchandising, music royalties, etc.; Lisa Marie owns 15% of the company, and also owns Graceland outright.

I don’t have a specific answer for the OP but there was a story on 60 Minutes a few years ago about how the estates of dead entertainers are huge business. So I guess one answer might be “as long as the money keeps rolling in.”

The formal legal estate lasts until the executor decides to close it. Which can be many, many years. There are sometimes reasons, usually measured in large stacks of dollars, where it’s advantageous to leave the estate operating.

For an ordinary citizen who owns a house and a car and maybe some mutual funds there’s usually no reason to delay any more than absolutely necessary. Once the debts are settled, the residual assets are distributed ASAP & the estate is then closed. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I think the point the OP is making is that the money that’s rolling in is no longer the property of the entertainer now that he’s dead. It’s no longer Elvis Presley’s estate; it’s Lisa Marie Presley’s property.

The estate could have been put into a trust either before or after he died, so that the trust collects his royalties and distributes them to listed beneficiaries.

“The Estate of the late George Adams” ran for just over 100 years as a trust in vic.aus. Then the trust was rolled over into a public company, with the benificiaries of the trust as shareholders.

I think that the will was put to probate in a normal process, and the trust was formed by the executers as part of the conditions of the will: certainly “The Estate” was run by trustees, not executors.

I thought I read somewhere that William Randolph Hearst’s estate was ongoing for 60-odd years. It was something to do with him wanting to be buried at Heart Castle in San Simeon, and the State of California refusing to approve it as a cemetery site.

Can’t find a thing about it now, though.

This might be outdone by the case of William Jennens, whose estate was tied up in legal wrangles for over 100 years, eventually being exhausted by legal fees, and is purportedly the basis for the Jarndyce vs Jarndyce case in Dicken’s Bleak House.

Hearst died in 1951. He didn’t trust any of his kids to run his business. He set up a trust (of the other kind) with family having a minority vote of the board. The trust dissolves when the last of the 5 grandchildren alive at his death pass on. (Patty missed the cut.)

So the trust will be ended maybe in the 2030s or so.

I don’t consider such trusts to be “estates” in the sense of the OP. Trusts inherit the estate and can last quite a while.

An example of a long stretched out estate battle is Howard Hughes’. Died 1976. Estate settled 2010. (But I think some legal matters continued involving the medical foundation that was set up.)

For most people the estate is settled within months, but California makes things drag on longer. There, a lot of people set up living trusts to smooth things out.

Actually that’s not the point I’m making. My point was that the wording in the item suggested that it was in fact Elvis’s estate earning the revenue.

I would agree with this. If the will establishes a trust using the assets of the estate, then I would think that the estate is considered settled. A trust, I believe, is managed differently than an estate. My father set up a trust with his investments, then when he died his cash-in-bank and real property passed to his wife. After about a year the estate was settled and the executor’s job was done. No more estate. The trustees continued to manage the trust until his wife’s death, according to the term’s of the trust, at which time the assets were distributed to the remaindermen.

All that matters is that the word “Estate” in common language has taken on this meaning. Therefore it is accurate. It may not match the precise legal terminology but it’s not being used in a precise legal context.

English does this all the time with thousands of words. It’s not a mistake when it happens. The meaning is completely clear to readers.

The fact that I asked the question demonstrates that it is not clear at all.

I had to file a form 1041 with the IRS for my brother’s estate for 2016. It asks if the estate is more than two years old and if so, to include a written reason. I don’t know the ramifications of keeping an estate open for for years, but including this question tells me the IRS wants them settled quickly.

That’s interesting. The specific wording is, “If the decedent’s estate has been open for more than 2 years, attach an explanation for the delay in closing the estate, and check here.” I wonder if there are tax advantages to keeping an estate open, or possibly tax dodges.

Typically, there are no tax advantages. However, administration is simplified. Beyond that, there may be ongoing probate litigation preventing the final accounting and disbursement of trust assets. Tom challenges his exclusion from the will, Dick wants the will reformed because of dissipation of the asset he was left, and Harry argues that a codicil of the will that took stuff away from him was not validly executed, and so on.

Einstein is still making money for somebody through stuff like Baby Einstein toys.

A joke, perhaps?

Einstein’s publicity rights are in the public domain. And that was in California, the rest of the country didn’t need a ruling.

Note that if you have photograph that you took of Einstein or some such, that might still be under copyright so you have rights over that.

Dragged out estate settlements are an issue for the IRS since they want their money now (or at least the forms saying why you don’t owe them money).

I /think/ that in California if the estate takes longer than a year to settle, you need to file an explanation ???

Also, does anybody see any details of the estate of Pablo Picasso?

I have an idea that I heard /years/ after his death that he had been the richest man in Europe at the time of his death, and that it took /years/ to settle his estate ???