Amy Winehouse's death yesterday at age 27 has unsurprisingly led many people to ask questions about the property—both intellectual and real—that she leaves behind. Were there any unfinished records? And who will get her money?
Regarding unfinished musical works, Winehouse reportedly left behind "a lot of demo material—some of which she'd intended to release as a third record. In light of her death, any decisions about whether the public ever gets to hear those recordings are now for her parents Mitch and Janis to make, according to at least one report. Will her grieving mum and dad agree to the demos' release? Or will they determine that the recordings don't adequately reflect their daughter's artistic vision, and keep them private? We shall see. (Meantime, Winehouse's debut record, Frank, and breakthrough masterpiece, Back to Black, are hits once again, with the latter platter topping the iTunes charts in the US, the UK, and several other countries.)
And what of Winehouse's estate? Well, Britain-based researcher and Forbes blogger Tim Worstall thinks it could end up going to Blake Fielder-Civil, her husband from 2007 to 2009 and alleged enabler for several additional years:
Marriage rewrites any will made before the marriage. That "I thee with my worldly goods endow" means just that. Divorce undoes those financial shackles, this is true, and there can be a settlement or not, as the parties agree to. However, the one thing, under English law, that divorce does not do is undo the presumption that the natural inheritor is the spouse. In the absence of a will the surviving spouse will inherit at least the bulk of any estate.
If Winehouse didn't create a new will after her divorce, Fielder-Civil might become several million pounds richer. This possibility might anger you very much! But before you shout "Blaaaaaaaaaake," and not in a loving and beckoning way but in a furious, I-fuckin-hate-that-dude fashion, consider that either Winehouse or some insightful person in her camp actually got around to updating her papers, and made sure that her currently incarcerated ex didn't inherit everything after all.
Details about Winehouse's will supposedly will be made public on Monday, and we'll all learn more about how the singer's reported 36 million-pound estate will be divvied up. Until then, the almost-lawyer in us will wonder (and possibly even lose sleep over) this question: If Winehouse didn't make up a new will after divorcing Fielder-Civil, and the Forbes blogger is right, then why wouldn't Fielder-Civil also inherit control over Winehouse's demo recordings, instead of her parents? Perhaps intellectual property and actual property are treated differently under UK trusts and estates law? If you're a British lawyer, feel free to speculat and/or share your legal knowledge via the comments section, so that we can go to bed tonight.