Woman working on her Estate Plan

Elvis’s Heirs Fight Over Estate

On January 12, Elvis Presley’s only child, Lisa Marie, went into cardiac arrest and died. It was a sudden and unexpected loss, that is tearing the Presley family apart and threatening the legacy of the King of Rock and Roll. 

Palmer & Slay has a number of Elvis fans on staff, so our estate planning team couldn’t help but take a closer look at what is going on at Graceland. 

Checking in to the “Heartbreak Hotel”

After Lisa Marie’s death, the following statement was released

“Priscilla Presley and the Presley family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Lisa Marie. They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time.”

We know Priscilla is Lisa Marie’s mother and Elvis’s ex-wife. Who are the other members of the Presley family? 

  • Riley Keough is Lisa Marie’s 33-year-old daughter born during her first marriage to Danny Keough. Riley is a popular actress and new mother. 
  • Finley and Harper Lockwood are the 14-year-old twins of Lisa Marie and ex-husband Michael Lockwood.
  • Navarone Garibaldi Garcia, 36,  is Lisa Marie’s half-brother. He is the son of Priscilla and her long-time partner Marco Garibaldi. 

At the time of her death, Lisa Marie was not married. 

“Suspicious Minds” Contest Lisa Marie’s Estate Plan

Just weeks after Lisa Marie’s death, Priscilla filed a lawsuit challenging her daughter’s estate plan. 

She argues that a 2016 amendment to the plan should be invalidated. The 2016 update would give sole control of the trust that holds Graceland and other assets in it to Riley. 

Priscilla argues that Lisa Marie’s signature on the document appeared “inconsistent” with past signatures and that her name was spelled incorrectly.

She also claims Lisa Marie failed to notify her of any changes to the trust. She says she did not know about the 2016 document despite the trust requiring changes like this be shared with all impacted parties. 

This second argument is the stronger one if it is true. Trustees must abide by the rules set out in the document creating the trust. Palmer & Slay helps draft these rules for our clients, and we work to make sure trustees we are advising follow them. 

Elvis’s Estate Plans Got “All Shook Up” 

The most interesting aspect of all this is that Priscilla is involved at all. 

Priscilla and Elvis were divorced at the time of Elvis’s death, and she was not included in his will. Elvis’s estate plan set up a trust with Lisa Marie as the beneficiary and his father and grandmother as trustees. 

Priscilla is only involved with Elvis’s estate because Elvis’s father named her as a trustee of the trust holding assets for Lisa Marie’s benefit at the time of his death. And it is probably a good thing he did so. When he died, the assets in the trust were quickly dwindling. Priscilla stepped in and made the decision to open Graceland as a tourist attraction, and helped negotiate some lucrative licensing deals. 

Once Lisa Marie turned 25, she came into her full inheritance. She set up a new trust to hold Presley family assets, and appointed her mother as a co-trustee. 

If Lisa Marie’s estate plan is upheld, Priscilla may once again have the role Elvis planned for her to have in his affairs: none at all. 

This is the perfect example of the way final wishes can get twisted over time. Elvis may not have wanted Priscilla involved in his affairs, but the people he left in charge did. And if not for her involvement, Lisa Marie might not have inherited much at all, which is probably not what Elvis would have wanted either. 

Ready to Make Your Estate Plan? “It’s Now Or Never”

The Palmer & Slay team will continue to keep an eye on this case as it works its way through the courts. Disputes over trust management and the disposition of high net-worth estates are things our team deals with every day, so it is interesting to see how a family that is virtually American royalty handles them. 
If you are ready to make your own estate plans, or you want to tell us a story about the time you met Elvis, please contact our Brandon, Mississippi office.