Celebrities are not immune to tragedy, and Hollywood has been shaken by the deaths of many high profile celebrities over the years – many of them died far too young. Despite the massive wealth of many celebrities, most still have life insurance policies that could pay millions to their estates if they pass away unexpectedly. Film studios often take out massive life insurance policies on film stars in the case that one of the actors dies during filming, whether on set or off.
Some celebs have even gone so far as to insure some of their body parts, after all we are talking about their moneymakers here. Pop Star Rihanna insured her legs for $500,000. But that’s chump change compared to the policy on Mariah Carey’s; after she was hired for Gillette’s Legs of a Goddess advertising campaign, Carey had her legs insured for a whopping $1 billion. Dolly Parton insured her famous breasts for over half a million dollars. However, Madonna insured her “assets,” despite there being much less of them, for much more – almost $2 million.
With those figures in mind, it’s unsurprising that here have been a number of seriously high life insurance payouts made following the death of a famous celebrity. Here’s a look at five of the biggest celebrity life insurance payouts of all time.
5. Whitney Houston, $300 thousand
When she died Whitney Houston had just $29,000 in her bank account which, for a superstar that sold more than 170 million records, is chump change. Worse, she had $4 million in debts. She had a life insurance policy of $312,000 which is, for many, a lot of money, but certainly not in the financial range you would expect from one of the world’s most successful singers. It wasn’t enough to cover the immense debt the singer left behind.
4. Michael Jackson, $3 million
The King of Pop was swimming in money and willing to spend frivolously, but he was responsible enough to take out a life insurance policy. Following Jackson’s death, the administrators of his will cashed in on his insurance claim. His estate received $3 million much less than the potential $20 million. The trustees were worried that the life insurance company would refuse to pay if drugs were found in Jackson’s system following the autopsy, so they settled for less earlier. It turns out they made the right choice, because the estate could have ended up with nothing from the life insurance.
3. Dale Earnhardt, $3.7 million to $7 million
The sporting world was in mourning following the tragic and horrific death of one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers. Dale Earnhardt died on February 18, 2001 after his car slid hood first into the wall during the final lap of the Daytona 500 when it was struck from behind by the car driven by Sterling Marlin. Earnhardt’s death made NASCAR officials take a good long look at the safety of the sport.
Earnhardt’s widow, Teresa Earnhardt, attempted to claim a $3.7 million life insurance payout, but at first she was denied. Richard Childress Racing, the team Earnhardt raced for, had an agreement in place that Earnhardt’s widow would receive as much as $7 million in the case of his death. Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance refused to pay, but a lawsuit between RCR and Mutual was eventually settled.
2. Heath Ledger, $10 million
Heath Ledger took out a $10 million life insurance policy before his death by accidental overdose. However, it’s unlikely that his daughter, the mother of whom is actress Michelle Williams, received the full amount of the policy. ReliaStar refused to pay out the policy because of the possibility that Ledger died of suicide. The lawyers for Ledger’s estate and the insurance company eventually reached a settlement, but the exact amount was not disclosed.
1. Paul Walker, $50 million
Universal Pictures will undoubtedly receive some sort of insurance payout due to the shocking and tragic death of Paul Walker. Walker was in the middle of filming Fast and Furious 7 when he was killed in a car accident. His death was eerily coincidental, and not only emotionally devastating, but financially devastating too.
Universal will receive compensation for the costs of having to replace Paul Walker in the upcoming movie. The film studio and insurance company (Fireman’s Fund) are at odds over exactly how much should be paid. The policy only covers costs associated with replacing Walker in the movie, which will be done by his brothers and computer generated effects. The movie’s budget has ballooned to over $250 million, but the insurance company will not pay for any costs not directly related to Walker. However, the payout could still be as much as $50 million. Peter Jackson’s digital effects company, Weta Digital, will be responsible for the CGI face replacement technology that will be used in Fast and Furious 7.
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