We have lost a lot of well known entertainers in the last year. Last January 12th, Lisa Marie Presley, the only child of Elvis Presley, died at age 54 from Cardiac arrest. Ms. Presley is survived by 3 children, Riley and Benjamin Keough (she was married to Danny Keough from 1988 through 1994) and twins, Harper and Finley Lockwood (she was married to Michael Lockwood from 2008 until 2016). Ms. Presley was predeceased by her son Benjamin, who took his own life in 2020.
Elvis Presley was born in Mississippi, in 1935. In 1954, he performed for the first time before an audience, at the Louisiana Hayride, a famous running show in the day. That launched a tremendous but short, 22 year career of singing and acting. Elvis achieved album sales of approximately 1 billion. He is recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best selling solo artist of all time. The vast majority of his albums went platinum or gold. He made numerous successful films.
In 1958, his Mother, Gladys, died at age 46.
In 1967, Elvis married Priscilla in Las Vegas. It was a 6 year marriage and they had one child, Lisa Marie, who was born in 1968. Elvis had no other children. His roller coaster career ended in August, 1977 when he died, at age 42. Most fans know of the arduous struggles Elvis endured in the last few years of his life.
Elvis’ Will appointed his Father, Vernon, as Executor. The beneficiaries were his grandmother, his Father and his daughter, Lisa Marie. Lisa Marie’s share was held for her in Trust, until her 25th birthday (in 1993). Vernon died in 1979. In Vernon Presley’s Will, 3 Executors were appointed, including Priscilla, the family’s Accountant and a Tennessee Bank.
When Lisa Marie reached age 25, she settled a new Trust, “The Elvis Presley Trust”. The Trustees were Priscilla and the same Tennessee Bank. Priscilla became more closely involved with the Estate, while pursuing her own acting (you may remember her in the “Naked Gun” movie series with Leslie Nielsen) and business interests.
In June, 1982, Priscilla and the other Executors opened Graceland to the Public. That was the start of an expansion in the value of the Estate. Today, there is Graceland, surrounded by a modern entertainment complex. It has, by any measure, been a success, thanks in no small part to Priscilla’s efforts.
Lisa Marie’s Estate
Ms. Presley sold a large portion of her interest in the Trust and it’s operating company in 2005, at a price of roughly $100 million. Though she spent most of that money before she died, she apparently retained ownership of Graceland.
Ms. Presley restated her Trust in 2010. She appointed Priscilla and another representative, as Trustees. In 2016, it is alleged that Ms. Presley amended her Trust, removing the two as Trustees and replacing them with her daughter, Riley and her son, Benjamin. As Benjamin died in 2020, only Riley remains.
Priscilla Presley has challenged the amendment. She has, in her Petition, raised doubts about the authenticity of the amendment, including irregularities in Lisa Marie’s signature as well as the failure to notify Priscilla of the amendment (required under the Trust terms).
Priscilla is also seeking to be reinstated as Trustee, with her granddaughter.
There is no indication Priscilla seeks to change the distribution of the Estate.
A CNN report says that friends of Lisa Marie, speaking anonymously, say that Priscilla and Lisa Marie had been estranged in the last few years of Lisa Marie’s life and she did not want Priscilla to administer the Trust. They say Priscilla’s challenge is a “money grab”.
Though the precise value of Lisa Marie’s Estate is not publically known, there are life insurance policies, valued at as much as $35 million. Likely there is more.
An investment advisor in Oregon was quoted in a recent article as saying that the Trusts settled by the Presley family utilized inappropriate persons to manage, which may have contributed to the loss of money over the decades. The advisor suggests that it is more prudent to hire professional Trustees rather than family.
A preliminary hearing of Priscilla’s Petition will happen in mid April. As Priscilla was partly responsible for the tremendous appreciation in value of Elvis’ Estate and as she wants to be reinstated as Trustee, it is potentially significant to allow her involvement.
Otherwise, it appears Ms. Presley had as much or more of a tumultuous life as did her Father. She was married and divorced four times and the huge proceeds she realized from the sale of part of her interest in the company, appear to have been squandered. She died with millions in debts.
The Presley family is a picture of tragedy, as well as conflict. Elvis himself lived a short, troubled life off the stage. He lost his Mother when he was 23 and it affected him greatly. His only child lived a short life also. One can only hope that Lisa Marie Presley’s surviving children break the mold and live better, longer lives. Priscilla may play an instrumental role in that.
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