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Valuing Jerry Lewis’ Estate

Comedian Jerry Lewis was particular about the legacy of his life’s work on camera. He purchased all of the rights to his most memorable films, including everything from the scripts to negatives, when they were not worth very much.

Lewis even insisted on complete control over any possible remakes of the movies.

Now that he has passed away, it is not clear how valuable those rights might be.

One potential clue might be an old real estate transaction, as Wealth Advisor discusses in “Jerry Lewis May Leave Shockingly Modest Estate Behind.”

Lewis purchased his Las Vegas home through a family trust. However, in 2002 he did something very unusual.

Lewis and his wife purchased the home from the trust.

It is not a particularly lavish home by celebrity standards.  It is probably worth less than $1 million. There does not appear to have been any estate tax reason for the transfer.

There are two possible explanations.

The purchase might have been made to wind down the trust. It also could have been made to cover the costs of transferring the rights to his movies to the trust.

It means that it is not clear who now really owns the movie rights and what restrictions, if any, have been placed on how those rights can be handled.

Since Lewis was so particular about maintaining control of any remakes, it could be that he has given directions that no remakes be made after his death.  This would make the rights worth far less, than if remakes could be made.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (August 20, 2017) “Jerry Lewis May Leave Shockingly Modest Estate Behind.”

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