New York music fans were likely saddened on Jan. 10 when the world’s media began to report that David Bowie had died of cancer. Bowie was a powerful force in rock music, and his remarkable career featured numerous classic albums. Entertainers were awed for decades by Bowie’s ability to constantly reinvent himself and explore his musical boundaries, but financial experts say that his savvy financial mind and prudent estate planning decisions may be just as impressive.
Bowie’s reputation for thinking creatively about money stems from a decision he made in 1997. He had struggled financially for years, but he was reluctant to raise money by selling his catalog of hits. Other artists had taken this path and had lived to regret it when they saw soaring royalty payments go to the new owners of their songs. Bowie’s solution was to issue $55 million in bonds backed by his royalties and copyrights. The 10-year bonds paid a fixed rate of return and were snapped up by the Prudential Insurance Company. Bowie was praised for raising the money he needed while retaining ownership of his valuable intellectual property.
The way that Bowie approached financial and estate planning matters could serve as an example to other entertainers. Many have died with little or no estate planning in place, and their grieving heirs were dragged into bitter legal disputes as a result.
Financial experts feel that details of Bowie’s estate plan are unlikely to be disclosed to the public. They believe that Bowie created revocable or irrevocable trusts to protect his family from the public glare of the probate process. Attorneys with estate administration experience could explain how using trusts in this way also allows greater control over how assets are distributed and may reduce exposure to taxes.