Details of David Bowie’s Estate Plan Reveal Savvy Forethought Years in the Making

What types of estate planning techniques are utilized by high-net worth individuals and families?

As news of singer David Bowie’s death made headlines on January 11, 2016, many were in shock and disbelief that the 69-year old had so quickly succumbed to cancer – a fact not publicly revealed despite an 18-month battle. In the wake of sudden (or near-sudden) death, one of the first considerations is whether the decedent had an estate plan in place – as we have all heard of those high-net worth celebrities who died without even a Will, creating havoc for years to come.

In the case of David Bowie – who is, of course, a native of Great Britain – preliminary reports seem to indicate he had set up an intricate trust network designed to ensure his eight-figure personal wealth would be appropriately distributed to his wife and children when the time came. And, according to reports, Bowie actually made these arrangements nearly two decades before his fatal demise, proving once again that proper planning and aforethought can make a bleak situation just a little bit brighter.

In the 1970’s, Bowie was reportedly facing financial ruin and was on the brink of bankruptcy. However, in a shrewd move, Bowie temporarily transferred ownership rights of some of his biggest hits to investors, many of whom held a so-called “Bowie Bond” to his iconic tunes for a period of ten years. At that point, ownership transferred back to Bowie and he retained all rights to his music – as well as the lucrative royalties owed to the singer.

As a result, the value of his art will transfer to his estate and will be passed on to his surviving wife — international supermodel Iman — and his two children. According to his U.S.-based estate planning attorney, Bowie had begun considering estate planning matters at a relatively young age, and had made 50 a milestone birthday at which point he vowed to ensure his financial affairs were arranged.

In order to establish your own estate plan, you should consult with a qualified attorney.