Who Inherited Ava Gardner's Money After She Died?

Ava Gardner's death, as did her life, encompassed two worlds. She died in London, England on January 25, 1990, a month and a day after turning 67, per Britannica. She'd been a Hollywood screen siren who had married and divorced actor Mickey Rooney, big band leader Artie Shaw, and singer Frank Sinatra, before living abroad in Spain and England. But she always claimed she was nothing more than "a plain, simple girl off the farm," and it was there in Smithfield, North Carolina, that she was buried, according to "Ava Gardner: 'Love is Nothing'."

She came from a big farm family, and her two remaining siblings at the time of her death, sisters Myra and Beatrice, were the beneficiaries of her estate, according to the Ava Gardner Museum. Ava Gardner's giving nature extended beyond the grave. Her living trust, made in 1986, stipulated that any remaining funds following the deaths of her sisters would go to charity.

Ava's sisters

On January 29, 1990, Ava Gardner's family, including sister Myra Pearce, buried the star who had died of pneumonia, per United Press International. Myra cried softly on that rainy day throughout the pastor's eulogy in which he admitted Ava "was no saint" but that she was "genuine" and loved her family. "Myra and Ava were very close and a lot of comfort to each other in later life," their great-niece Ava Thompson recalled on the Ava Gardner Museum blog. Myra lived in Winston-Salem, raised three children and owned a diaper service with her husband.

Beatrice Cole, known as Bappie, was too sick to attend Ava Gardner's funeral. She had moved to Los Angeles with her younger sister in 1941, the only way their mother would agree to allow Ava to go to Hollywood. She became her personal assistant and helped guide her career, according to The News and Observer. She died in 1993 and is buried next to Ava.


Before Myra Pearce died in April 2005, her family auctioned off some of Ava Gardner's mementos Myra had inherited to help pay for her medical expenses, per the Winston-Salem Journal and the AP. Her nurse stole other items connected with the star worth about $1 million.

Following the deaths of Ava Gardner's sisters, the remains of the estate went to various charitable organizations. Ava Gardner's living trust had originally listed the Queen Victoria Hospital Foundation Trust and The Animal Health Trust (which has since closed) in London as the beneficiaries, per the Ava Gardner Museum blog. Today, besides the British hospital named above, St. Judes Children's Research Hospital, and the Ava Gardner Museum also continue to receive funds through "brand licenses and royalties."

According to Ava Thompson, her great-aunt had always been charitable, working with and contributing to organizations like the American Red Cross and the March of Dimes. On a more personal level, Thompson recalled visiting the star in New York. After leaving a club in Manhattan, Ava Gardner saw "a severely handicapped" man whom passersby were "jeering at." The actress stopped and spoke with him before giving him "all the money she had with her," Thompson recalled. "We must always be grateful for our good fortune and be kind to others," Ava Gardner told her great-niece afterward.