Contesting A Will - The Sad Case Of Bob Marley
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Bob Marley was one of the most refreshing musicians of his age, spreading reggae music across the world and changing the industry forever. Since his death in 1981, his legacy has lived on but has been unfortunately soured by issues surrounding his estate in a terrible and long running inheritance claim argument that has run for decades.

The problem for Marley — or, rather, for his surviving family — is that he never had a will. Despite knowing he was dying of cancer more than a year before he finally passed away, he never commissioned a solicitor to draw up a will. This is particularly odd when his finances are looked at in more detail, as he set up a number of corporations and vehicles for his money and was clearly quite efficient in terms of his own financial management, being worth around $30million at the time of his death.

The problem in Marley’s case was his Rastafarian faith, which meant that he was forbidden from acknowledging his mortality. Creating a will would have been an acceptance of being a mere mortal and not being at one with God, with the Jamaican state instead dealing with his assets. The issue arose when two of his closest legal advisors tried to hatch a new plan after Marley had died, enticing his widow, Rita, to forge a number of documents which were then predated to a time before his death.

The scam was uncovered and the parties found guilty, but under Jamaican inheritance law, Marley’s name and image rights pass to his heirs — his wife and children — who then have legal ownership of these. With Marley’s brother seeking to gain the rights after what he saw as a criminal attempt to deprive him of his share, the whole situation has developed to become messier and messier over time.

The message here is simple: creating a will does away with all of the possible issues which might crop up after your death. Having your own wishes recorded in law is the only real way to ensure that your name isn’t sullied by the potential for family arguments after your death. You might not expect to die, but anyone can die at any time and having a will can protect against any potential issues. Even if you don’t have a large estate like Marley’s, having a will is essential.

If you die without having a will in place, the state usually decides how your estate is divided, which is less than ideal in almost all situations. Indeed, having a will can also ensure that your estate won’t be subject to any more inheritance tax than is necessary, which otherwise might not be the case. Being able to give one last gift to your loved ones in the event of your death, allowing them to have a new opportunity in life, can be very empowering. If you are not married, for example, your partner would not legally be entitled to any of your estate. Only by creating a will can you ensure that they will be provided for.

Unfortunately, the law does not adequately state that if you die without a will your partner will receive your estate. If you have living siblings or parents, they’ll also be entitled and the state will be left to decide to which level. The care of your children can also be your decision in your will, whereas otherwise a lengthy legal process will decide who will be your children’s legal guardians.

Put simply, creating a will is quick, easy and inexpensive and it will ensure that your own wishes are kept to after you die — something which is very valuable and otherwise not possible. In contrast, contesting a will is slow, difficult and expensive. Inheritance claims often cause family splits, like those between Bob Marley’s family, that may never properly heal. If there’s one thing you can be certain of in this sad case, it’s that the ugly legal battle between the family is the last thing Bob Marley would have wanted.

If you are looking to contest a will, contact Bonallack and Bishop, who are specialists in the field.


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