In April 2012, The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horowitz attended the ceremony, the third Beastie, Adam “MCA” Yauch, sent a letter. Yauch was unable to attend; he was in the final months of a three-year battle with salivary gland cancer. When Yauch passed away on May 4, 2012, he left a wife, daughter and legacy of music, filmmaking and philanthropy – a legacy that his will sought to preserve. But, according to some legal analysts, changes to Yauch’s will were created without the support of estate planning professionals – and may not be binding.
|Adam Yauch, pictured playing bass at Brixton Academy in 2007, sought to preserve his artistic legacy with revisions to his will. Photo courtesy of Fabio Venni.|
Recent reports have highlighted Yauch’s effort to prevent commercialization of his artistic work and image. The Beastie Boys have turned down licensing deals for decades, and Yauch’s will includes language, both in its original form and in hand-written additions, that aims to continue that practice. According to Rolling Stone, the will reads, “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes.” His estate was left to his wife and daughter. According to an article in Forbes, Yauch’s will was a complicated one, and among other things, included provisions for who would be awarded guardianship in the event both Yauch and his wife, Dechen, were to die at the same time.
But the sticking point in Yauch’s will is the phrase “or any music or any artistic property created by me” which was added by hand without the benefit of professional support. Some experts are concerned that the language may not be binding. In addition to selling more than 20 million records with the Beastie Boys, Yauch was a filmmaker, producer and longtime fundraiser for Tibetan freedom efforts. The value of his estate, as well as his wishes for it, could be impacted by this well-intentioned addition.
Staff at CICF, working in partnership with estate planning professionals, frequently help donors explore and plan for their philanthropic legacies. Conversation around Yauch’s will demonstrates the value of professional support when preparing wills and other legal documents, whether an individual is focused on intellectual property, beneficiaries or philanthropic goals.