Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Legal Battle May Be Brewing Among Presley’s Heirs

Lisa Marie Presley, the only child of Elvis Presley, aka the King of Rock & Roll, died of cardiac failure on January 12. She was 54. A potential contest for control of her estate has already begun, a mere two weeks following her passing.

Lisa Marie left behind two 14-year old children with her ex husband, Michael Lockwood; and a grown daughter, Riley Keogh, from her past marriage to Danny Keogh. Ben, another child by Keogh, took his own life in 2020. Presley has been interred at Graceland mansion next to Ben, Elvis and her grandparents.


Financial Woes


Elvis died in 1977 and left his entire estate in trust for Lisa Marie. At 25, she received her inheritance, and became the owner of Elvis Presley Enterprises and Graceland Mansion. Total assets at that time were estimated to be around $100 million, but in 2005 Lisa Marie sold 85% of her stake in Elvis Presley Enterprises in order to satisfy her debts. She kept ownership of her father’s costumes, cars, awards and other possessions, and to the iconic Graceland Mansion. She attributed her financial woes to mismanagement by her then-business manager, Barry Siegel, who she alleged brought her to “financial ruin.” She sued Siegel in 2018, claiming she had only $16,000 in cash at that time. He countersued, saying Lisa Marie’s situation was the result of her excessive spending. Her mother, Priscilla Presley, sold a home in California in 2019 to help bail out her daughter, giving Lisa Marie $3 million in proceeds from the sale.

Lisa Marie was the sole owner of the very profitable Graceland when she died. In papers related to her legal battle with Lockwood, she claimed she was earning $104,000 per month from Elvis Presley Enterprises. Forbes has estimated that her father’s estate could continue to generate as much as $110 million annually. Nonetheless, the New York Post reports that Lisa Marie’s financial difficulties were continuing: when she died, she owed the IRS $1 million in back taxes, and she had been racking up expenses of $92,000 per month. She was also involved in a battle with her ex-husband, Danny Keogh, who was suing her for child support payments of $4,600 per month.


The Potential Legal Challenge


Lisa Marie established a trust in 1993, and completely restated it on January 27, 2010. The restated trust appointed her mother Priscilla Presley, and Barry Siegel, as co-trustees of her estate.

Following Lisa Marie’s death, another document was found, apparently an amendment to the 2010 restatement. In that document, dated March 11, 2016, Lisa Marie removed both Priscilla and Siegel as trustees and replaced them with her two children, Riley, 33, and the now-deceased Benjamin. That means that Riley would now be the sole trustee of her mother’s trust – if the 2016 amendment is found to be valid.  But Priscilla doesn’t believe it is, and is challenging its authenticity. In papers filed on January 26 with the Los Angeles Superior Court, she seeks to make the 2010 trust the controlling document and maintain control of her daughter’s estate. (She says that Siegel is expected to bow out even though he was listed as a co-trustee.) She notes several irregularities in the 2016 amendment: First, it was never notarized or witnessed. Second, Priscilla was not furnished with a copy, per the original 2010 arrangement. Third, the name “Priscilla” is misspelled. And last, she notes that Lisa Marie’s signature on the amendment “appears inconsistent with her usual and customary signature.”

Priscilla’s legal action potentially puts her in direct conflict with her granddaughter, Riley, now 33. We do not know how all of this will play out, but it is possible there are plenty of legal skirmishes ahead for the heirs to “The King.”