How Ineffective was the Estate Plan of Elvis Presley?

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KS and MO Attorney Kyle E Krull

Written by Kyle Krull

Attorney & Counsellor at Law Kyle Krull is president of the Law Offices of Kyle E. Krull, P.A., an Estate Planning Law Firm located in Overland Park, KS. Estate Planning Attorney Kyle Krull has provided continuing education instruction to attorneys, accountants, and financial professionals at local, state, and national programs.

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POSTED ON: June 5, 2024

Learn from the estate planning mistakes of Elvis Presley to better protect loved ones and assets.

The daughter of Elvis Presley was left navigating the shortcomings of his estate planning.

Elvis Presley was a talented musician.

When he died in 1977, the King of Rock n' Roll had a legendary career and a net worth of around $5 million.

Although he left his estate in the hands of his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, she had significant financial challenges when she became his heir at age 25 due to his poor estate planning.

At the time of her death in January 2023, Lisa Marie Presley struggled with her family's wealth.

Elvis Presley left a poor estate plan.

The poor estate planning decisions of Elvis Presley haunted his loved ones for decades.

Why Did the Estate Plan of Elvis Presley Fail?

Over-Reliance on a Last Will

Rather than utilizing a trust or other tools designed for wealth protection and preservation, Elvis used a basic last will and testament.

Although last wills provide directions for asset distribution, they only work within the context of probate.

Depending on the size and complexity of the estate and the quality of the last will, probate can cost families significantly in time and money while reducing the value of the estate.

After the IRS, unprincipled business partners, and creditors received their claims to Elvis Presley's estate, only a fraction of the estate remained for his daughter.

Kiplinger explains how these estate planning mistakes impacted Lisa Marie Presley throughout her adult life.

Excessive Spending

While alive, Elvis spent his wealth freely.

His generosity was the stuff of legends.

Because his estate planning did not address this, most of his estate was transferred to others rather than his daughter.

Although creditors took a hefty portion of his estate, the IRS claimed the estate tax for his estate was worth double the estate's value.


As a result, he owed a significant amount to the government.

Trusting the Wrong People

Rather than entrust his business dealings to a trustworthy and honorable individual or organization, Elvis granted Thomas Parker authority over his business management.

Parker was a Dutch illegal immigrant who had a history of mental instability and poor integrity.

Although he was known as Colonel Parker, Thomas Park was discharged from the Army as a private after having a "psychotic breakdown."

Thomas Park benefitted greatly from his dealings with Elvis Presley.

Per their arrangement, Colonel Parker was entitled to half of Elvis Presley's profits and had the right to sell the famous singer's song catalog.

As a result, Parker kept the profits.

The family of Elvis Presley was left with no royalties.

Double yikes!

Lack of Estate Planning

While Elvis Presley had many personal demons throughout his life, certain ones could have been avoided with proper estate planning.

Although your life and estate likely do not resemble Elvis Presley's, you can protect your loved ones and assets with advanced estate planning strategies.

Can You Avoid Similar Estate Planning Mistakes to Those of Elvis Presley?

Although a last will is better than having no estate plan, this document is not always sufficient to address specific areas of estate planning.

What actions should you consider?

Plan for Estate Taxes. 

While the current federal estate tax exemption is relatively high, it will not always remain at the current level.

Additionally, some states have estate taxes in addition to those of the federal government.

Various strategies, like establishing trusts or gifting assets, can help reduce your estate tax liability.

Maintain Liquidity. 

Two classifications of assets are liquid and illiquid.

Illiquid assets can include real estate or investments.

Liquid assets include readily available assets like cash or checking accounts.

Having liquid assets available to pay creditors, taxes, and immediate family needs is helpful.

This allows you not to have to sell the family home to make these payments.

Regularly Review and Update Plans.

Because life circumstances are constantly changing, you should review and update your plan regularly.

Doing so ensures your plan meets your current needs and those of your loved ones.

Consult with a Reputable Estate Advisor. 

Estate planning is complex and involves understanding the law at the state and federal levels.

Avoid the mistake made by Elvis Presley by consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Take Action to Avoid Estate Planning Mistakes

A proper estate plan will leave your loved ones with numerous financial challenges.

What are the Key Takeaways Regarding the Estate of Elvis Presley?

Elvis Presley made various estate planning mistakes.

By relying on a basic last will, most of his estate went to creditors and the government rather than his wife and daughter.

A comprehensive estate plan prepared by a trustworthy and experienced professional is essential to protecting your loved ones.

Unfortunately for Elvis, he did not have the Internet or AVVO to find reviews of Thomas Parker before entrusting him with his business management.

Before reaching out, you can read our Harvest Law KC reviews on AVVO,, and Google.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. You should contact an attorney for advice concerning any particular issue or problem. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between Harvest Law KC and the reader.

Reference: Kiplinger (May 17, 2023) "Five Estate Planning Lessons We Can Learn From Elvis' Mistakes"

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