Legendary Rapper DMX Dies With No Will, Millions in Debt, and 15 Children—Part 2
Legendary hip hop artist DMX—born Earl Simmons—passed away on April 9 at age 50 after suffering a massive heart attack a week earlier at his home in White Plains, New York. The heart attack was reportedly triggered by a cocaine overdose on April 2, which left the rapper hospitalized in a coma. After a week of lingering in a vegetative state, his family made the decision to remove him from life support.
As we reported last week in part one, although DMX was wildly successful in both music and movies, the rap icon experienced serious legal and financial problems, along with frequent issues with drug addiction throughout his career. Having fathered 15 children with nine different women, DMX’s money issues largely stemmed from unpaid child support, but he also failed to pay income taxes, and both of these issues would land the rapper in prison and rehab on more than one occasion.
The combination of child support payments and back income taxes also left DMX deeply in debt. In fact, some estimates put DMX’s net worth at the time of death at more than $1 million in the red. However, as with other famous musicians, DMX’s overall net worth also included extensive recording and publishing royalties—valued at an estimated $17.7 million—so even though DMX’s estate will have to pay off his massive debts, there will likely be a fairly significant sum left for the late rapper’s children to inherit.
That said, on top of his failure to manage his finances, DMX also failed to create an estate plan. And as we’ll see below, this lack of planning has already ignited a court battle among the late rapper’s many potential heirs. Even worse, the rap icon’s lack of planning will likely mean that his fiancée, Desiree Lindstrom, the mother of DMX’s 15th child, son Exodus Simmons, will most likely inherit nothing from her late fiance’s fortune.
A Family Feud Kicks Off
Although Desiree and DMX were in a relationship for seven years and raising their son together when he died, the two were never married. In an attempt to establish a claim to his estate, shortly following DMX’s death, Desiree petitioned the New York Supreme Court in an attempt to be legally declared his “common-law” spouse. But the court denied her request, which isn’t surprising given that New York hasn’t recognized common-law marriage since 1933. Had her request been approved, state law would give Desiree priority to control DMX’s estate as its administrator.
In light of the court’s ruling, Desiree will likely have zero say in how DMX’s estate is managed, and unless his other children consent, she likely won’t inherit any of his money either. And seeing that a court battle is already brewing among DMX’s oldest children over the administrator role, it’s doubtful that Desiree will be at the top of their minds when it comes to dividing up their late father’s assets.
Just a month after DMX’s death, five of his adult children petitioned the Westchester County Surrogate’s Court seeking to be named administrators of their late father's estate. According to the New York Daily News, the first filing was made by DMX’s daughters Sasha Simmons and Jada Oden on May 10, while DMX’s three adult sons with Tashera Simmons—Xavier, Tacoma, and Sean—filed their petition to be appointed administrators on May 10.
Because DMX was unmarried and died without a will, New York law stipulates that his assets are to be equally divided among his 15 children. However, it’s unclear just how much wealth there will be to go around after all of DMX’s debts to the IRS and other creditors are paid off.
In their court filings, his daughters estimated the worth of DMX’s estate at less than $50,000, while his sons put the value at less than $1 million. Media reports of DMX’s net worth at death also vary widely, but they all show him deeply in the red. Celebrity Net Worth, for example, puts his net worth at negative $1 million, while MoneyInc estimates his total net worth was a whopping $10 million in the red.
The Fight To Control DMX’s Artistic Legacy
If DMX was so deeply in the hole, you might wonder why his children would be in such a rush to be named administrator of his estate. While each of DMX’s children stand to inherit an equal share of his assets under the law, his older kids are likely vying for the administrator role in order to gain control over the estate’s future earnings. Upon his death, Billboard estimated that DMX’s total music and publishing royalties were worth $17.7 million, and given the rap star’s popularity and extensive catalogue, those assets are likely to steadily increase in value as the years go by.
Whoever is eventually appointed to administer DMX's estate will not only be paid a commission, but more importantly, that person will also be in charge of making all of the estate's future business and financial decisions. Furthermore, the administrator will also be in charge of reviewing and approving the claims of competing heirs. With such power and money on the line, it’s not surprising so many of DMX’s children are jockeying for the administrator role.
Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with both Prince and Aretha Franklin, such family disputes can last for years, tearing the family apart, costing the estate millions in legal fees, and exposing the family’s private lives to tabloid headlines. And in the end, the court may decide to avoid causing a family squabble by appointing a neutral third-party administrator to manage DMX’s estate, leaving a total stranger in control of his life’s work.