The death of Robin Williams last year was a loss for the world. He was a remarkably talented man who made millions laugh and will be missed. He was also a farsighted person as far as his estate after his death was concerned. Williams learned from the aftermath of the death of Michael Jackson when he did his own estate planning. Legal battles ensued over Jackson’s estate, and one of the battles was the IRS claiming extra taxes owed due to the value of the estates control over Jackson’s image and publicity rights. For this reason, and perhaps so that his heirs could not fight over these rights, Williams restricted the use of his image for 25 years after his death.
Most people have not heard of this particular aspect of his estate given the news focusing on all the bickering between the family members over how they will divide up his stuff. I will never forget a digital image of John Wayne inserted into some beer commercial over a decade ago. It did seem to cheapen his image, and celebrities may want to keep that from happening to them to protect their legacy. I never saw an image of him like that again in an ad for anything on television, so hopefully such brash exploitation of a beloved star’s image angered people and created a negative backlash.