Legendary rapper Earl Simmons, known as DMX rose to fame in the 1990s and 2000s. His career as an artist was wildly successful with several albums debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard chart and three nominations for Grammy awards. However, his personal life was riddled with legal battles including tax liens and jail time. On April 9th, 2021, it was reported that Earl Simmons passed away at 50 years old.
At the time of his death, it was estimated that DMX was worth negative one million dollars. He was unmarried at the time of his death and had 14 children. He also died without a will. Recently, the mother to his youngest child filed to be acknowledged as his common law wife which would give her immediate priority of his estate. The judge in the case denied her request and now the family will be engaged in a battle to determine who will be the executor, as well as the rightful distribution of his assets.
You may be thinking, why does any of that matter when he died a million dollars in debt? In DMX’s case the real issue is the rights to his music. Although he had his own legal trouble and was unable to maintain any wealth that he accumulated, there is still value in his intellectual property. The future earnings of his music has upwards of 15 people fighting over who is in charge and who will possibly inherit, even from an estate with such a large amount of debt.
The battle over DMX’s estate is sad and unfortunate. His lack of planning is a powerful lesson for many underscoring the true need for estate planning. Whether someone is arguing over rights to music or pots and pans in the kitchen, unfortunately death brings out grief which manifests itself in different ways.
I tell clients that no matter the value of someone’s estate, anyone over the age of 18 needs some form of an estate plan. Whether an estate is valued at millions of dollars or negative one million dollars, every adult should decide who is in charge to make financial and health care decisions during periods of incapacity, and who is in charge at their death to settle the estate.
I hope that the DMX situation can resolve itself, but all too often battles like this can last years in the legal system and cost thousands and thousands of dollars. It is my goal as an estate planning attorney to help my clients avoid situations like these.