Lisa Marie Presley leaves behind a music fortune and a family dispute
By Chloe Melas and Alli Rosenbloom, CNN
As Lisa Marie Presley’s three daughters stand to inherit her estate and their grandmother is contesting the validity of her late daughter’s will, some close to the family say the legal dispute now in a California court reflects a Presley family history of conflict over money.
Four days after Lisa Marie Presley’s Graceland memorial service, Priscilla Presley filed a petition challenging a 2016 amendment in her daughter’s will. The change removed Priscilla Presley and former business manager, Barry Siegel, as co-trustees and replaced them with her children, Riley and Benjamin Keough. Benjamin Keough later died in 2020.
Priscilla Presley’s petition alleges that she did not receive notice of the amendment while her daughter was alive as was required by her Trust. The petition also notes that Priscilla’s name is misspelled in the document, alleges the amendment was not witnessed or notarized and questions the authenticity of Lisa Marie’s signature.
Keough has not yet responded to the petition. CNN has contacted her representatives for comment.
Two individuals who were longtime friends of Lisa Marie Presley spoke to CNN about the estate dispute. CNN is not naming the friends as they were not authorized to speak publicly on behalf of the family.
One friend alleged Priscilla Presley’s petition is a “money grab.”
“This is about Graceland and the memorabilia that Elvis left to Lisa Marie,” the source said. “Lisa was the sole heir to his estate. She and her mother were estranged for the last several years. Lisa did not want her mother overseeing the estate. I believe Priscilla is after money and what’s inside Graceland.”
Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley’s relationship was strained over the years, the friends said, by their respective marriages and divorces, financial mismanagement, and personal trauma that has played out in the public eye as the former wife and the only child of the “King of Rock and Roll,” respectively.
CNN made multiple attempts to reach Priscilla Presley’s attorney for comment but has not heard back.
In a statement to CNN, sent Friday by a publicist after this story was first published, Priscilla Presley defended her efforts to protect her family’s legacy.
“I loved Elvis very much as he loved me. Lisa is a result of our love. For anyone to think anything differently would be a travesty of the family legacy and would be disrespectful of what Elvis left behind in his life,” Priscilla Presley said in part. “Please allow us the time we need to work together and sort this out. Please ignore ‘the noise.’ As I have always been there for Elvis’ legacy, our family and the fans, I will continue to forge a pathway forward with respect, honesty, dignity, integrity and love.”
Priscilla and Elvis Presley divorced in 1973. Lisa Marie Presley was the sole inheritor of Graceland and her father’s estate when he died in 1977. Priscilla Presley transformed the property into a lucrative tourist attraction and museum, held in a trust for Lisa Marie Presley until she turned 25.
In 2004, Lisa Marie sold 85% of Elvis Presley Enterprises’ assets in a deal reportedly worth more than $100 million. She retained 15% ownership of Elvis Presley Enterprises, which manages operations for Graceland, its related properties and the Graceland Archives. Lisa Marie also maintained complete ownership of the Graceland mansion itself and her late father’s personal items housed in its museum, including costumes and cars on display, according to the Graceland website.
A trust with the Graceland property and its contents will now pass on to her daughter, Riley Keough, an accomplished actress and model, along with her twin 14-year-old sisters, a representative for Graceland confirmed to CNN.
Keough has made several films and starred in the first season of the Starz anthology series, “The Girlfriend Experience.”
“Riley is a sophisticated, 33-year-old woman who is more than capable of running the estate smoothly,” the second close friend of Lisa Marie Presley told CNN.
In 2020, a Presley executive told Rolling Stone that the estate was worth between $400 and $500 million. Lisa Marie Presley annually earned seven figures from her interest in the estate, based on a court filing in her 2022 divorce.
So, now in the petition by Priscilla Presley challenging Lisa Marie’s will, she has begun a legal fight against her granddaughter.
“This is about gaining control of what’s left of Elvis’ estate,” one close friend alleged of Priscilla Presley’s petition. “It’s sad.”
Elvis Presley’s legacy
Brigitte Kruse, a memorabilia auctioneer, is listed as an attorney-in-fact for Priscilla on her petition.
Benny Roshan, Chair of the Trust and Probate Litigation Group at Greenberg Glusker with estate law expertise, told CNN an attorney-in-fact might be designated in situations where an individual is either “unable, unwilling, [or] unavailable” to act.
“This kind of raises the question of which of those three scenarios necessitates Priscilla filing a lawsuit [with an] attorney-in-fact,” Roshan said.
Kruse and her husband started Kruse GWS Auctions Inc. in 2009, according to the company’s website. They have collaborated with Priscilla Presley on Elvis memorabilia auctions in the past, though it’s unclear what the terms of their financial partnership may be.
“My relationship with Ms. Presley was established years ago,” Kruse said in a statement to CNN. “My entire adult career has been devoted to validating and protecting the legacy of Elvis Presley. It has been an honor to be one of the many conservators of the Presley family.”
In August, CNN reported that Kruse arranged an auction of “lost” jewelry belonging to Elvis Presley.
“It was … a collection that we (had) all heard about,” Kruse told CNN in an email at the time. “It truly was a myth and a legend until we put our hands on it.”
Priscilla Presley helped curate the sale and expressed in an interview with Reuters that she hoped her involvement would help combat the proliferation of fake Elvis memorabilia, adding: “I want to know for sure that that is going to go to someone who is going to care for it, love it.”
“Elvis deserved for this collection to be found and displayed in order to preserve his legacy,” Kruse said in a press release. “The fans also needed to know about this collection after 50 years, and all of the stories attached to each piece.”
Dozens more Elvis Presley memorabilia items were listed as part of an “artifacts of Hollywood and music” auction that began in December 2022.
Kruse told Reuters that the items, such as an address book that belonged to the “It’s Now or Never” singer, had increased in value since Lisa Marie Presley’s death in an interview published last week.
According to a press release, “The telephone address book is well documented by a personal recollection by Priscilla Presley adding to its unique provenance.” It sold for $10,000, based on information on the auction site.
Elvis Presley’s life and career returned to the spotlight in a big way last summer with the Warner Bros. film “Elvis,” starring actor Austin Butler in the title role. Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley collaborated in support of the project. They appeared together at the Golden Globe Awards for the film in January, just days before Lisa Marie’s death. (CNN and Warner Bros. are both part of Warner Bros. Discovery).
Away from the spotlight, however, one of Lisa Marie Presley’s friends told CNN there was tension between the mother and daughter.
“They put on a united front for the film. It’s a family business and they knew that if they began publicly battling it could hurt the bottom line,” the friend said. “It was a complicated relationship.”
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