One month after the sudden passing of Lisa Marie Presley, a dispute over who should control her estate has cast a cloud over Graceland. Lisa Marie Presley was the only child of Rock ‘N Roll legend, Elvis Presley, and his ex-wife, Priscilla Presley. Elvis’ Will left his estate to his father, Vernon Presley, his grandmother, Minnie Mae Presley, and his daughter, Lisa Marie. Vernon and Minnie Mae passed away shortly after Elvis’ death in 1977, making Lisa Marie the sole beneficiary of Elvis’ $100M estate.
Under the terms of Elvis’ Will, Lisa Marie, who was 9 years old at the time of Elvis’ death, was not entitled to her inheritance until she reached age 25. Accordingly, the assets were held in trust, with Pricilla Presley, among others, acting as co-trustees. Elvis’ loose spending during his lifetime, coupled with heavy taxes imposed on the estate after his death, left the estate with little money to manage Graceland, Elvis’ home.
As a result, in 1981, Priscilla Presley created Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) to manage the assets and business of the estate and opened Graceland to the public to fund its continued operation. Once Lisa Marie turned 25 in 1993, she elected to deposit her inheritance into a newly formed revocable living trust. The trust was managed by Priscilla Presley and Lisa Marie’s business manager, Barry Siegel, as co-trustees. It held Graceland, all of Elvis’ personal assets, and 100% of the shares in EPE.
Revocable living trusts are a critical estate planning tool in the appropriate circumstances, which allow the grantor, in this case Lisa Marie, to designate the beneficiaries of their estate, with the added flexibility for the grantor to revoke any provision of the trust as needed.
Although Lisa Marie affirmed that she wished for her mother and Barry Siegel to act as trustees and distribute her assets in 2010, an amendment to the Trust allegedly signed by Lisa Marie in 2016 says differently. The amendment sought to remove Priscilla Presley and Siegal as trustees, replacing them with Lisa Marie’s daughter and son, Riley and Benjamin Keough. Benjamin passed away in 2020, leaving Riley as the sole trustee.
Priscilla Presley is seeking to be reinstated as trustee, alleging that the 2016 amendment is invalid. She argues that the amendment misspells Priscilla’s name, that Lisa Marie’s signature may be fraudulent, that the amendment was not witnessed or notarized, and lastly, that neither Priscilla nor Siegel were advised of the amendment at the time of its writing. As such, Priscilla wants to retain her trusteeship although she is not challenging who should benefit from Lisa Marie’s estate.
The events surrounding the Presley estate underscore the importance of proper planning related to the preparation and modification of legal documents. They also illustrate the importance of complying with the necessary formalities when executing documents and notifying interested parties of the changes made. Whether you live in Graceland or Roseland, it is important to seek experienced and knowledgeable legal advice to ensure that your estate planning wishes are effectuated.
The Elder Law attorneys at Mandelbaum Barrett PC are available to answer any estate planning questions you may have.