Laura A. Zwicker

Chair, Private Client Services Group
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Why Robin Williams Won't Be Making Millions Beyond The Grave

October 27, 2015Article

Regardless of licensing choices made while living, Hollywood stars like Williams have become increasingly aware of image use after death.Developments in CGI and visual effects technology mean that studios and enterprising estates can exploit the likeness of entertainers (through advertisements, holograms, or Las Vegas shows) to ensure their businesses live forever. Furious 7,for example, used a combination of archival footage, visual effects and body-doubles to recreate Paul Walker, who died in 2013 before the movie had concluded filming. Replete with a lengthy homage to Walker, the movie went on to gross $1.5 billion this year, making it the fifth-highest grossing movie of all time. (Walker's estate is thought to have got a modest $10 million from that, FORBES estimates.)

"I don't understand it in his estate since he was leaving his image to charity," said Laura Zwicker, an attorney at Greenberg Glusker who counsels high net worth families on estate planning. Zwicker agreed that if Williams were leaving his image to family members or another taxable distribution, placing a restriction on the use of it could "depress its value for estate tax purposes."