The other night, I was channel surfing and started watching a documentary on Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors. He died at the age of 27 in a Paris hotel room. No autopsy was performed. Morrison struggled with alcohol abuse. Many accounts noted he was snorting heroin close to the time of his death. While he made a number of choices that hindered longevity, he did have a will.
The will stated his entire estate would pass to his girlfriend Pamela Courson, provided she survived him by 3 months. If she didn’t, his estate would pass to his brother and sister.
Morrison’s girlfriend passed that test. But, she died, not long after – presumably from an overdose, in 1974.
Courson had no will. When she died, all of Morrison’s estate passed to her parents. Nothing went to Morrison’s brother or sister; nor Morrison’s parents. When Morrison died, his estate was worth ~$400,000; a large sum in 1971. But, because Courson (and Morrison) died childless, control of his 25% stake in the Doors’ record sales and copyrights became contentious. Over the past 40 years, this sum has been substantial.
The estate transferred to Courson’s parents. Morrison’s parents sued and received an ongoing stake in his legacy to ensure “parity.” Pamela Courson’s father assumed the role of “artistic executor” of the estate.
Morrison’s mother and father died in the past decade. They likely bequeathed their share in the Doors to their surviving kids, which would mean the brother and sister are finally back where Jim intended.
The question Morrison’s lawyer never asked was what Jim Morrison wanted if his girlfriend died. The Lizard King’s documents never spelled it out.
We’ve worked with thousands of doctors over the past 12 years. Having the right document in place can mean the difference between 5 years of litigation and no litigation at all., I never had a will until my wife became pregnant. I was 39 at the time. When we are young, very few of us anticipate the bad things that life can throw at us -disability, disease, and death. Our families are better served if we address these details while we are alert, vibrant, and healthy.
As a New Year’s Resolution, make sure you have a will (or better yet, a formal estate plan). Make sure you have appointed healthcare and financial powers of attorney. And fill out an advance directive. If you were diligent and had these documents prepared in the past, dust them off and make sure they reflect your current wishes.