What Taylor Swift Can Teach Us About Estate Planning

In the days preceding and following the Super Bowl, Taylor Swift seemed to be everywhere. I read numerous articles ranging in topic from her love life to conspiracy theories to her societal influence and back again. As I read, it occurred to me that blogs must exist about Taylor Swift and Estate Planning. Several authors have written on the interrelationship of those topics and it’s easy to see why. Arguably, 2023 was the year of Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams.” Time magazine named her Person of the Year, she headlined the highest-grossing, billion-dollar, worldwide tour which nearly broke Ticketmaster, and began a high-profile romance with now three-time Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs tight end, Travis Kelce. Call me “Enchanted.”

Naturally, I wanted something relevant for Estate Planning and decided that regardless of whether we have “Bad Blood” toward Taylor Swift, it’s hard to deny her “Style” or impact on the “Cruel Summer” that was 2023. Let’s review the empire that she has built that involves not only her earnings from record deals and concert ticket sales but also lucrative endorsement deals, merchandising, and significant real estate holdings. Turns out that Taylor Swift knows “All Too Well” what she wants and understands how to get it. She’s a savvy businesswoman.

When her first recording label sold her recordings to a well-known manager, Taylor Swift spoke against the sale and began re-recording and re-releasing songs titled “Taylor’s Version” followed by the original song title. If this sounds like an easy way to expand her music catalog, it’s much more than that. It’s an “Invisible String” to ensure that anytime an individual downloads or plays the “Taylor’s version” of the song, she herself, rather than the company that purchased her recordings, receives the royalties from the song. Not only has Taylor found a way to control royalties from her early work, but she’s also found a way to prevent others from using her likeness and phrases by trademarking them. Taylor Swift prevents their use with anything other than her products and services. She has even trademarked her name! This “Fearless” business strategy allows her to control her image and career and protect both.

Taylor has extensive real estate holdings in several states, including California, New York, Tennessee, and Rhode Island. These properties have a value exceeding $150 million. She owns these properties through a trust demonstrating that she has enlisted the help of appropriate advisors to help fill in any “Blank Space.” Finally, Taylor has increased her intrinsic value by associating herself only with brands that she uses herself. In 2022 FTX offered her a $100 million sponsorship deal and she walked away, perhaps thinking to herself “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Shortly thereafter, several other celebrities initiated a class action lawsuit against the company. Clearly, Taylor saved herself from becoming involved in the lawsuit or associated with the company in any way.

As this article demonstrates, Estate Planning lessons (and opportunities) surround us. Estate Planning matters not just to prevent things from going wrong, but also serves to ensure that they go right. The lessons that this article explores remind us as Trusts and Estates practitioners not only to use reliable methods to achieve desired results, but also to think creatively when problems arise. When her first recording company sold her recordings, Taylor could have had “Bad Blood” or thought “Is it Over Now?” Instead, she found a way to “Shake it Off” and reclaim her music. Likewise, she employs multiple means of protecting her empire, as should anyone who wants to leave a legacy. If you have questions about your Estate Plan or want to discuss your legacy, “You Need to Calm Down” and reach out to me and we can discuss how best to support your intended wishes with best outcomes.