When Stieg Larsson died suddenly in 2004, he was well-known in Sweden as an investigative journalist, political activist, and expert on right-wing extremism. His partner of more than thirty years, Eva Gabrielsson, whom he did not marry due to security concerns, was the natural, and presumably intended, beneficiary of his estate. However, Stieg failed to make a valid will expressing this intent and his assets therefore passed by operation of Swedish law to his father and brother, from whom he was nearly estranged.
This estate planning foible would not have been noticed outside of a small political circle in Sweden had it not been for the publication after Stieg’s death of three crime novels, which became the internationally known and bestselling “Millennium Trilogy,” beginning with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Eva, who encouraged Stieg to write, and collaborated with him on, the novels, was denied any share of the profits and, what she claims is worse, any input on their publication and movie rights. Instead, Stieg’s father and brother have received the copyright to his literary works and a huge monetary windfall in addition to the meager estate that existed at Stieg’s death.
Stieg Larsson is just the latest in a long line of artists who became worth far more in death than they were in life. His story illustrates the importance of planning now to protect your loved ones, even if your present circumstances do not appear to warrant it. Although we are not all future bestselling authors, there is often a much greater value than we realize in both our life’s work and planning to ensure that our loved ones receive it.