Faculty Journal Articles and Book Chapters

ORCID (Links to author’s additional scholarship at ORCID.org)

Joshua C. Tate: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2496-538X


The untimely death of Michael Jackson this past June presents an opportunity to reassess certain thorny estate tax issues that may arise when a celebrity dies owning valuable intellectual property. Elsewhere we have debated hypothetical, tax-motivated changes to state laws relating to postmortem publicity rights. This article focuses on existing legislation, like California’s, that makes publicity rights both devisable and descendible. Federal transfer taxes are levied on intangible property as well as tangible assets, and therefore apply to intellectual property, including a celebrity’s right of publicity and copyrights retained by an artist in his or her creations. Using Michael Jackson’s estate as an example, and focusing primarily on publicity rights, we examine two questions that any estate planner representing a celebrity client ought to consider. First, how should a personal representative value intellectual property for estate tax purposes? Second, what strategies are available to lessen the estate tax burden associated with certain intellectual property rights?

Publication Title

Tax Notes

Document Type


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Law Commons



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