Friday, December 7, 2012

All About Domicile

This is complicated.  Marilyn Monroe died in 1962 in California after she was fired from the film 'Something's Got To Give."  For then estate tax reasons, her executors claimed she was a NY resident.  The rights to make money from her estate and likeness have been passed down to her estate heirs (and their heirs) over the past 50 years.  

Several years ago, her estate sued a photographer for using her likeness for commercial purposes.  A court ruled in favor of the photographer and said that there was no right to publicity at the time of her death.  The State of California quickly passed a law authorizing a right of publicity and deeming it retroactive and transferable to heirs.  The estate returned to court to have the previous verdict overturned.  The court acknowledged the new law, but said that it was available only to residents of California.  Because the estate had said that Ms. Monroe was a NY resident at the time of her death, the law did not benefit her estate.  

In summary,the estate could  not have it both ways - taxed as a NY estate, but utilize California laws for protection.   Something had to give.