10 Richest Dead People

It’s truly amazing how much a celebrity can make during their lifetime, but some are now finding that it doesn’t have to stop there. It isn’t uncommon for a celebrity’s estate to collect royalties from movies and merchandising deals for years after their death. Here’s a list of people who still bring in millions every year — even though some of them have been dead for decades.

Steve McQueen

Legendary actor Steve McQueen passed away in 1980, at only 50 years of age. The loss of the coolest film star of the 1960s was a huge blow to the movie-making community. His first big film was The Magnificent Seven, where he did his best to upstage Yul Brynner, who was the first-billed star of the film. His stunt paid off, and he was offered first billing in his next big movie, The Great Escape.

He had a hugely successful career in action movies that spanned 20 years, before he passed away at the age of 50 from complications with lung cancer. McQueen made promotional deals with Tag Heuer and Persol during his lifetime that continue net his estate around $9 million per year.

CBS Television / Public Domain

CBS Television / Public Domain

Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss

If you’ve ever bought a recent graduate or newly born baby a copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss, you’ll understand why his estate continues to earn upwards of $9 million per year.

His books are consistently bestsellers decades after they were first published (Green Eggs and Ham was published in 1960!), and now that screenwriters are starting to mine his work for potential movie material, his estate only stands to grow larger with every passing year. The new Lorax movie took in grosses of over $349 million, with a generous chunk of the royalties going to Dr. Seuss’s estate.

Library of Congress / Public Domain

Library of Congress / Public Domain

John Lennon

This entry on the list almost goes without saying. While John Lennon does have to share the massive yearly royalties from the entire Beatles back catalogue with three other men, his cut of the profits is still remarkable. With the royalties from his solo career as both a singer and songwriter added to the pile, Lennon’s estate earns upwards of $12 million per year.

His estate also makes money when another artist covers a Beatles song, or when it is used in a movie, like Across the Universe, and I am Sam (where all the background songs used in both movies were Beatles tunes covered by different artists). The Beatles sold more than 63 million albums between 1992 and 2013 alone, and the heirs of all four men will be enjoying their riches for years to come.

Adam Jones / Own Work

Adam Jones / Own Work

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