Muhammad Ali’s Estate May Be Subject to Bitter Dispute

Muhammad Ali leaves behind a personal legacy that includes four marriages, nine acknowledged children, skirmishes with bankruptcy and the complications of 30 years of declining health. He also leaves an opportunity for his beneficiaries to wrestle over millions

His fourth wife, Lonnie Ali, is a childhood friend he married in 1986. She is understood to be the executor of his estate. Reports have pointed to friction between her, family members and Ali’s children from previous relationships including his only known biological son who has said to have been living in poverty for a number of years due to being estranged from his wealthy father for some time.

There is speculation in the press that the value of the estate could be anything from $35 million to more than $85 million although Ali’s estate is unlikely to benefit from the kind of money-spinning merchandising legacies of other celebrities such as Prince and Michael Jackson. In 2006 Ali sold 80 per cent of the rights to his image for $50 million including the rights to trademarks like ‘floats like a butterfly, sting like a bee’. However, the family will still have input as to how his image is used and has, so far, been very selective about licensing deals and it is unknown how this aspect will be handled moving forward.

What is certain is that it’s not only the value of the estate which will cause complications but, and a more common issue for many of us, the complex family situation that will no doubt create acrimony if certain family members feel they do not receive the inheritance they may have expected.

Without a will, the situation would be made far worse. However, even with a will, the challenges of ensuring all elements of a legacy are dealt with correctly can be a huge burden for those individuals who are nominated as executors.

Professional support will no doubt be sought, as in our experience we often find that executors are often close family relations who not only have a theoretical boxing match to referee but also have their own grief to manage.

The variation in Estate Administration fees can vary tremendously (BTWC’s competitive rate is a minimum of £1k or 1.25% of the gross value of the estate) as can the quality of service and the personal attention to detail so service providers should be selected carefully.

In the case of Muhammad Ali’s estate, the finer detail will undoubtedly be played out further in the public ring until the estate is ultimately distributed and the final bell rings.