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In 1981, the world said goodbye to reggae legend Bob Marley, who bravely fought cancer. Unlike many, Marley chose not to write a will, guided by his Rastafarian beliefs that place little importance on earthly possessions. At the time of his death, Marley’s estate was valued at $11.5 million, a staggering sum, which today stands at around $34 million.

Absence of a Will: Jamaican Laws Take the Lead

Unwilling to direct the distribution of Marley’s estate, Jamaican law stepped in. Under the regulations, a widow is entitled to an immediate 10%, followed by an additional 45% during her lifetime. The remaining property is divided equally among the children. Bob Marley, a man of many relationships, was married to Rita Marley and had 11 children with seven different women. However, this legal framework caused quarrels within the family.

Legal battle for Marley’s fortune

Before Marley’s estate was divided, his lawyer, David Steinberg, convinced Rita Marley to sign documents on Bob’s behalf, with the goal of securing the lion’s share of his estate. This fraud came to light, leading to Rita’s removal as a trustee. The disputes did not end there. Marley’s children, bandmates and record label also laid claim to his estate, setting off a protracted legal battle.

House of Marley: Collective Governance

After years of legal wrangling, Bob Marley’s estate, now known as the Marley House, is overseen by his four children. The remaining siblings hold positions on the board. The estate thrives, producing a range of Marley-inspired merchandise from clothing to headphones, speakers and turntables. In 2020, Marley was ranked eighth on Forbes’ list of the highest-earning deceased celebrities, with an annual income of $14 million.

Bottom line: preserving Marley’s melodies and messages

Bob Marley’s legacy lives on through the careful management of his estate. Guided by his music and message, his children and family members carry the torch, ensuring his influence continues through the generations.

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