When Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor passed away in March at age 79, she left behind a vast estate that’s only going to get bigger. Beginning Dec. 13, Christie’s will auction off Taylor’s property including her famed jewelry, film memorabilia, couture, and art. ”I’ve worked on estates for over 16 years at Christie’s, and this is by far the biggest and the best,” says Heather Barnhart, Christie’s senior VP and the sale’s director. The auction is expected to earn upwards of $50 million.
That sum will be added to an estate already estimated at $600 million to $1 billion, which has been funneled into the Elizabeth Taylor Trust. Although details of its workings aren’t public, the trust partly benefits the star’s charity, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. A spokesperson says the trust will pursue business opportunities to support the foundation, which ”is in line with Ms. Taylor’s wishes.” Tax experts point out that giving the money to charity ensures it won’t be subject to the estate tax, which currently runs at 35 percent.
Regardless of who benefits, Taylor’s estate will undoubtedly continue to generate huge sums. Sales of her perfumes racked up an estimated $69 million in 2010, and Forbes cited her as one of the highest-earning deceased celebrities this year, behind the likes of Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe. The next windfall could come from branding Taylor further, although the trust hasn’t yet sold her rights. Authentic Brands Group, for instance, recently purchased the rights to Monroe, whose image is being licensed for everything from Marilyn-themed cafés to clothing. Authentic Brands CEO James Salter says the challenge in marketing Taylor would be her many personas, from child star to Oscar winner. But he is curious. ”I’d love to do a demographic study on her,” he says, ”to see who her customer is.”