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Matthew Perry reportedly got $20 million a year in ‘Friends' residuals. Here's who may get them now!
2024/04/11

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Matthew Perry, the beloved actor best known for his role as sarcastic, wise-cracking Chandler Bing on the sitcom "Friends," died Saturday at age 54.

He left behind a legion of fans and a sizable estate.

A significant portion of the actor's wealth came from his most iconic role. That income reportedly amounts to $20 million a year, from syndication and streaming revenue.

A spokesperson for Warner Bros., which owns the show's distribution rights, declined to verify or comment on the residual payments. CNBC was unable to reach Perry's representatives for comment.

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What may happen to Perry's 'Friends' residuals

When an actor passes away, residual payments are considered the actor's personal property. Now, this residual cash flow stream is presumably owned by his estate.

There could be three possibilities for the inheritance of Perry's "Friends" residuals based on laws in California, where he resided, said Charlie Douglas, a certified financial planner and president of HH Legacy Investments in Atlanta.

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has contracts in which its members can list beneficiaries for residual payments upon death.

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As one option, Perry could have named an individual or individuals here. It's a similar exercise to naming a beneficiary for common types of accounts such as 401(k) or individual retirement accounts.

As a second option, Perry may have named a trust — and not an individual — as the beneficiary of his residual payments, Douglas said. The residuals would flow to the trust and the trust would, in turn, have stipulations as to who received them.

Unlike wills, which are a matter of public record in probate, trusts are private, in which case the public may never know who inherits Perry's "Friends" income.

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However, there's a third option: Perry didn't name any beneficiary. In this case, state law would determine his estate plan.

"It's quite possible that, not having a spouse or children, he didn't [write in] anything," Douglas said.

All states have a framework that dictates how your cash and belongings ought to be distributed when you die. These are known as intestacy laws, and they vary from state to state.

In most states, this is the typical hierarchy for inheritance, in order of who stands to receive assets: first the spouse, then children, grandchildren, parents and, finally, siblings, Douglas said.

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Perry never married or had children. He is survived by his parents, who divorced when Perry was younger than one year old and have both since remarried, and five half siblings.

In California, his parents will be the likely takers of Perry's royalties from acting roles, as well as other parts of his estate including his 2022 memoir, according to Tasha Dickinson, trusts and estates partner at Day Pitney.

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