The Fight Over Coleman's Will

06/13/2010 | Business Litigation

Child-hood actor Gary Coleman died last month.  Most people know/assume Coleman was broke when he died. And perhaps he was.  Coleman was picked up as the sponsor for Cash Call (a questionable loan company), after he called them to get a loan.

But here's what's happening now.  Coleman's original will was written in 1999, about eight years before he married Shannon Price.  Coleman met  Price on the set of the movie "Church Ball." The couple married in 2007 and divorced in 2008, according to Coleman's attorney, Randy Kester. Kester says the two had an on-again, off-again relationship. Price was still living in the marital home when Coleman suffered his fatal fall and asked asked the Utah courts to determine the two had a common law marriage.

Coleman's Utah lawyer probated the 1999 will; however, a second will dated February 2, 2005 was discoverd andwas filed in a Provo, Utah court; the second will names Anna Gray as the executor and beneficiary of his entire estate.  Gray was the CEO of an undisclosed company formed by Coleman several years ago and reportedly lived with Coleman until his marriage to Price.

But not so fast, Price has come forward will a third hand-written 2007will that Price claims leaves his estate solely to her

So, if Coleman was broke, why are two women fighting over who will control his estate?

The simple and morbid truth is that Coleman's identity may be more valuable after his death than while he was alive.  

Shorty after Michael Jackson's passing I wrote about why his earning power would likely increase after his death.  And I was correct.  On March 15, 2010, his estate signed the biggest record deal in history, $250 million.

Every year Forbes Magazine compiles a list of the richest dead celebrities.  Here is the 2009 list.

And, while I doubt we'll ever see Coleman on the list, his celebrity image still has earning power that can continue well into the future if managed properly.