Article by Chepenik Trushin LLP
Legendary rocker David Bowie was as masterful in his estate planning as he was talented in his artistic ventures. Bowie’s colorful fifty year career encompassed both, a successful musical career and an acting career, which ultimately ended when Bowie succumbed to cancer in early January. Bowie’s empire, valued at an estimated net worth of $230 million, is primarily the result of several successful world tours and the sale of an estimated 140 million records. However, despite living a extravagant lifestyle, with real estate in New York City, Switzerland, Los Angeles, London, and the Caribbean island Mustique, Bowie was said to have been instrested in the financial world of estate planning as early as a young man.
Bowie’s financial wizardry was further evidenced by his creative invention of “Bowie Bonds”, created by Bowie and financial adviser, David Pullman. Bowie Bonds were asset-backed securities which awarded investors a share in Bowie’s future royalties for ten years. Bowie was able to retain ownership of his work rather than selling the copyright, and he was then granted complete ownership of the rights after the ten-year period. The scheme was created in the mid-1990’s and was bought by American insurance company Prudential Financial for $55 million. Pullman noted that even then, Bowie’s intent was always that “at the time of his death his assets would all transfer to his family and beneficiaries.” Bowie’s beneficiaries, model-wife, Iman, and his two children, can now financially benefit from Bowie’s strategic and forward planning.
Bowie’s excellent estate planning has several important takeaways. First, it is critical to begin your estate planning as soon as possible. An estate plan ensures, among other things, that one’s family is accounted for after passing. In Bowie’s case, Bowie had his family at the forefront of his planning when he devised his successful Bowie Bonds scheme.
Second, it is helpful to speak with skilled advisers and attorneys who can devise a plan to best protect your assets and other important decisions. Tools such as wills and trusts should be considered to ensure that your wishes are honored and your family is protected upon death. These instruments are useful in many ways, ranging from who will take care of the children to how to dispose of real estate. Instruments such as durable powers of attorney and health care directives can also prove useful in the event that you become incapacitated and cannot make important financial or health decisions on your own.
Finally, despite David Bowie’s net worth his insistence on planning ahead was always driven by his desire to provide for his family. Estate planning is not just for the wealthy, it is for anyone who wishes to make the most of their assets while they still have a choice in the matter.