Here's What Happened To Elizabeth Taylor's Money After She Died

Film legend Elizabeth Taylor starred in such classic films as "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958) and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1967) (via Internet Movie Database). She is also remembered for her beauty, violet-colored eyes, and many trips down the aisle. Married eight times — twice to actor Richard Burton, Taylor also built a business empire that sold perfume and other products. She was one of the first Hollywood icons to create her own brand. At the time of her death in 2011, Taylor had an estate worth an estimated $600 million to $1 billion, according to Bloomberg Businessweek (via CBS News).

Taylor was hospitalized at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center early that year as she struggled with heart issues (via the Los Angeles Times). Taylor died there on March 23 of congestive heart failure. Her four children, Christopher and Michael Wilding, Liza Todd, and Maria Burton, were with her at the end. She also had 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. With such a large family, it wasn't clear initially how her massive estate would be divided and how her charitable efforts might continue. A devoted philanthropist, she raised more than $270 million through her own foundation.

Elizabeth Taylor was a shrewd businessperson

Elizabeth Taylor became extremely wealthy, but it wasn't from sheer luck. She amassed a fortune thanks to a series of smart career and business decisions. According to Forbes, Taylor was the first actress ever to receive a payment of $1 million for a role. It was for the film "Cleopatra" — the film where she met the man she'd marry twice, actor Richard Burton — and she went in asking for so much money and had so many on-set demands that she figured the studio would walk away. However, given her fame and the demand that came with that, Twentieth Century Fox agreed to it, a decision that almost led to the studio having to file for bankruptcy.

Taylor also made several investments that turned to payout later on in major ways. She bought a piece of land in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was nothing more than a piece of undeveloped beachfront property, but her presence alone boosted its value into the millions.

She was also an avid art collector and had pieces by some of the most sought-after artists in history including Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet. It was an impressive collection, made even more impressive by the fact that she made many of these purchases before art prices exploded the 1980s, a time which The New York Times called "the biggest art boom in history" in 1990.

Elizabeth Taylor's estate sold off jewelry

Elizabeth Taylor was financially savvy, and she even made some strategic moves to prepare the family for life after her death. She established a trust, which allowed her to pass along her assets without having a public will (via Express). According to the Law Offices of DuPont and Blumenstiel, Taylor's choice to establish a revocable living trust rather than a will meant that her estate never had to go through probate in the courts, where it would have been made public. For that reason, how Taylor chose to divide her money is not public knowledge, though Express reported it's believed the majority of it went to her kids and grandkids, and her charities.

One person came out publically about what Taylor left to him. Her final ex-husband, Larry Fortensky, told the Daily Mail that Taylor left him £500,000, or about $850,000.

Her trust, her charitable organization, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, and The Elizabeth Taylor Archive, later became known collectively as the House of Taylor (via Elizabeth Taylor's official site). The House of Taylor revived the brand name that Taylor used for her perfume and beauty products, which continued to be sold after her death. White Diamond, one of her most popular fragrances, can still be found in stores.

Taylor's grandson is a key figure in family trust

Before her death, Taylor also planned to have some of her assets sold off. Much of her jewelry collection went up for auction in December 2011, and it brought in an impressive $156.8 million (via Christie's). All the proceeds from the sale went to the Elizabeth Taylor Trust, with a portion of the profits being given to Taylor's charity. "I think she would be happy to know that her collections will continue to enrich the lives of those who have acquired pieces," her son, Chris Wilding, said.

In 2019, more of Elizabeth Taylor's personal items were auctioned off. This time around, fans had a chance to own a piece of Taylor's fashion history as many of her costumes, outfits, and accessories were included in the event. The auction featured numerous variations of Taylor's signature garment — the caftan (via Julien's). Taylor's grandson, Quinn Tivey, said that he had been working on an archive of her life and work, and "along the way, we've come across items that seem perfect for a sale" (via The Hollywood Reporter). Tivey, the son of Taylor's daughter Liza Todd and artist Hap Tivey, became a trustee in 2016. Other trustees include Tim Mendelson, Taylor's former assistant, and Barbara Berkowitz, Taylor's lawyer.

While growing up, Taylor was just a normal grandmother to Tivey. He remembered her for their times together, "watching movies, chatting — she would give me advice." Now, as a trustee, he works to preserve her legacy as an actress and humanitarian.