Here's Who Inherited Gene Roddenberry's Massive Estate

When Gene Roddenberry died, he left behind a legacy that far exceeded whatever personal wealth he accumulated: thirteen movies, 12 TV shows encompassing hundreds of episodes, fan-filled conventions going back to 1972, galaxies' worth of merchandise, characters and stories that have proven central to generations of lives. But perhaps most critical of all, inspiration for people to pursue real-world careers in science and technology. And even though questions about Roddenberry's personal shortcomings have arisen in the years since his death, no such discussions negate his impact. 

In fact, Roddenberry was keenly aware of the complications surrounding his life while he was still alive. This is perhaps why he included an "in terrorem" clause in his will. Cornell University's Legal Information Institute defines the clause as a "no-contest clause" that strips inheritance away from any inheritor who objects to the will's contents. Even so, Gene Roddenberry's daughter Dawn — from his first marriage — objected to her father passing along the majority of his wealth to his second wife, Majel Barret-Roddenberry, as UPI reported.

As the Orlando Sentinel also describes, Roddenberry started his relationship with Barret-Roddenberry while married (fans of the original "Star Trek" series will remember her as Nurse Chapel). After Roddenberry died, his daughter Dawn claimed that Barret-Roddenberry had manipulated her father into giving her his fortune, as Heavy says. Dawn contested in court, lost, and then lost her inheritance.

A battle of the Roddenberrys

At the time of his death, Celebrity Net Worth says that "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry was worth about $500 million. Much of this was non-liquid, however, wrapped up in "Star Trek" as an intellectual property — his liquid assets were about $67.8 million in 2023 money. The Los Angeles Times said that each of Roddenberry's three children would receive $500,000 each, as well as one-quarter of the money generated by the entire "Star Trek" empire. The University of Michigan's Law Review says that Roddenberry also wanted each of them to inherit part of Majel Barret-Roddenberry's trust when she died. This means that at the time of Roddenberry's death, the vast majority of his money went directly to Barret-Roddenberry.

That would have been the end of the story if not for his daughter Dawn. She believed that her mother-in-law had inveigled her way into the family fortune and manipulated Roddenberry into giving her his money. The Los Angeles Times reports that Dawn also said her father had been mentally "incompetent" when he drafted his will. Dawn compiled her case for two years but dismissed it on the very day she was supposed to appear in court. Barret-Roddenberry, however, wasn't having it. Citing her husband's "in terrorem" clause, she sued Dawn. Dawn defended herself by saying that she never actually brought her case to court. In the end, though, the judge sided with Barret-Roddenberry and cut Dawn out of Roddenberry's will.

Dogs got more than Roddenberry's daughter

The story of Gene Roddenberry and the family conflict surrounding his inheritance could have ended when Dawn Roddenberry dropped the court case against her mother-in-law, Majel Barret-Roddenberry. But much like we said earlier regarding the disbursement of Roddenberry's inheritance on a whole, drama escalated the situation further. 

Even though Dawn Roddenberry hadn't brought her case to court, the California judge who presided over the case decreed that Dawn had violated the "in terrorem" clause regardless (per UPI). According to the University of Michigan's Law Review, though, the judge wasn't without sympathy and admitted that Roddenberry likely didn't fully understand what the "in terrorem" clause meant and also likely never intended for his children to be cut out of his will. And yet, the law was the law. In June 1996, the Los Angeles Times says that Dawn lost her $500,000 up-front inheritance, her part of Barret-Roddenberry's trust, and her portion of the entire "Star Trek" empire all at once. There's no word anywhere on what Dawn has been up to since.

As a final, weird coda to this sad story, Majel Barret-Roddenberry's dogs got more of an inheritance than Gene Roddenberry's daughter. As DogTime explains, she left a $4 million trust to her dogs and gave them the right to stay on her estate until they died. She even gave $1 million to her domestic helper to stay at the property and take care of the dogs.