Here's Who Inherited Jim Morrison's Money After He Died

Arguably one of the greatest musicians of all time, and certainly one of the greatest rock frontmen in history, The Doors' singer and lyricist Jim Morrison joined the infamous "27 club" in 1971 when he died at age 27. With his death, Morrison joined Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, and other musicians, who also all died at that young age (via History). Often attributed to heart failure due to chronic alcoholism, Morrison's cause of death is still the stuff of conspiracy theories. British singer Marianna Faithfull says heroin may have also been involved, but with no foul play suspected, there was never an autopsy. For this reason, what really killed Jim Morrison may never be known, according to The Washington Post.

When Jim Morrison died, the Florida-born rock star was well-off for the time, although his bank account balance may not seem like much by today's standards: He had only $400,000 (via The Wealth Advisor). In today's money, though (as of April 2022) that equates to just shy of $3 million, which is no small amount (per Dollar Times). 

Shortly before he died, Morrison had left The Doors, whose fame had begun to fade. He moved to Paris to write poetry, as The Baltimore Sun explains. Nevertheless, Morrison maintained a 25% stake in The Doors' music, as well as the rights to his own songwriting. With The Doors' legacy now stronger than ever, both those things turn out to be worth quite a lot. For this reason, among others, Morrison's complicated estate, locked up in probate, would remain unsettled for years.

Jim Morrison's will was bare bones

To make matters worse, Jim Morrison left few clues as to where he'd like his money and assets to go in his will, beyond his common-law wife Pamela Courson, who Morrison called his "cosmic mate." At the time of Jim Morrison's death, Courson would receive $400,000 in one lump sum, as well as Morrison's claim to Doors' royalties and his own songwriting credits. Should she die — which Courson did some three years later (via IMDb) — what remained, including Morrison's music-based assets, would then go to Morrison's sister and brother. That all seems simple enough. With Courson's death, though, things began to get complicated, according to The Wealth Advisor.

Courson and Morrison never married, nor did they ever have children. Courson also died with no will, and several women came forward to claim that Jim Morrison had fathered their children, per Heirs and Successes. Several of Morrison's ex-bandmates also claimed he owed them money. Clearly many interested parties were after what Morrison was worth. On a technicality, though, what Morrison left to Pamela Courson reverted to her own parents when she died, whom he barely knew. Morrison's own parents — left out of his will — did not take this lightly. They sued the Coursons to get a portion of what they felt they were rightly owed, claiming Morrison was not in his right mind when making his final arrangements. For their part, the Courson's settled.

Morrison's own image was perhaps his most valuable asset

Lost in the discussion of Morrison's cash and the value of his songwriting credits is who would control his image and likeness, which in the 1970s few figured would ever be worth that much money. What's clear at this point, though, is that Morrison's image is one of the most valuable assets he left behind, adorning bestselling t-shirts, posters, and coffee mugs to this very day. 

In their settlement with the Morrisons, Pamela Courson's family kept exclusive rights to Morrison's image and likeness, while they split up the royalties. Perhaps the Coursons felt they got the short end of the deal, but Courson's own father played a part in supporting the prevalence of Morrison's likeness in the years to come, so it's likely he knew the potential value of what he had on his hands, as Heirs and Successes explains. 

Clearly, $400,000 in cash would not last very long, even in the 1970s. Where the real value in Jim Morrison's estate lay, then, was in his own likeness and in the value of The Doors' music — including album and download sales estimated to be worth a total of $3 million a year (via The Wealth Advisor). With The Doors now among the best-selling artists of all time, with an estimated 100 million records sold and counting, that number seems likely to grow even more, according Reuters.