The right of publicity is descendible in California. This means that a person may transfer by will the right to exploit his or her name, likeness, image, etc., just as one might transfer, say, an heirloom piece of jewelry.
In Postmortem Rights of Publicity: The Federal Estate Tax Consequences of New State-Law Property Rights, published in the Yale Pocket Part, I have argued, together with Mitchell Gans and Jonathan Blattmachr, that a descendible right of publicity likely is included in a decedent’s gross estate for federal estate tax purposes. In the Jackson estate, the estate tax value of Mr. Jackson’s rights of publicity very easily could exceed his estate’s liquid assets available to pay taxes.
In short: big estate tax problems loom on the horizon for Mr. Jackson’s estate.
What do the particulars of the taxation of Mr. Jackson’s estate have to do with feminist legal theory? Nothing. But the economics of inheritance, family rights and wealth transfer taxation most certainly should interest those who study the ways that law constitutes and complicates family relations.