Top 5 Highest-Earning Dead Celebrities of the 21st Century

"You can't take it with you," goes the famous idiom about money after death.

Yet that has not stopped these famous faces from earning fortunes since their death.

Every year since 2001, Forbes has released its list of "the highest-paid dead celebrities."

Newsweek has tallied up the top earners' fortunes to name the top 5 so far. Take a look below...

5. John Lennon ($346 Million)

John Lennon
Beatle John Lennon with rose during the "Bed-in for Peace" demonstration. Photo by Bettmann via Getty Images/Getty Images

Lennon is a mainstay of Forbes' list. The Liverpudlian musician's estate generated at least $346 million since 2001, according to the magazine, thanks to revenue from royalties, merchandise, licensing fees and more.

Forbes cited the release of Gimme Some Truth, a box set of his solo work, for an earnings spike in the first decade of this century. His estate made an estimated $14 million in 2019 thanks to the re-release of the Beatles' album Abbey Road.

4. Yves Saint Laurent ($350 Million)

 Yves Saint-Laurent
24 January 2001. French fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent . The reclusive French maestro died in 2008 but he had retired from haute couture in 2002 after four decades at the top of his trade. Photo by JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP via Getty Images/Getty Images

He only made the list once in 2009, the year after his death from brain cancer, but that was enough to get French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent into this rundown.

That year alone he made $350 million, earning more than the likes of Lennon , Elizabeth Taylor ($210 million) or Dr. Seuss ($325.5 million).

The main driver of YSL's posthumous fortune was a 3-day auction at Christie's in 2009 which sold most of his art, antiques and furniture for $443 million.

According to Forbes, "the monies were split between the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation and a philanthropic group created for scientific research and the fight against AIDS."

3. Charles Schulz ($730.5 Million)

Charles Schulz
Cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of the strip "Peanuts, working at his desk on 1 March, 1978. Getty Images/Bettmann / Contributor

Since his death in 2000, cartoonist Charles Schulz has been a fixture on the Forbes list, ranking in the top 5 since its inception. The staggering fortune his work has generated in the 21st century comes to a total of $730.5 million.

His estate's was boosted by 2015's Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie.

According to Forbes "the Peanuts business brought in $47 million more in revenue this fiscal year compared to 2020, for a total of $157 million."

Part of that comes from a deal with Apple TV+ ($32.5 million),which aired a new series, Snoopy in Space (2 seasons so far) and classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas.

2. Elvis Prestley ($924 Million)

Elvis Prestley
American rock singer Elvis Presley (1935 - 1977), wearing a white rhinestone-studded suit and strapped guitar, singing into a microphone with his eyes closed. Photo by Fotos International/Getty Images/Getty Images

The "King of Rock and Roll" is dead; long live the king of copyright.

Elvis' estate earned about $924 million in the 21st century so far, according to Forbes.

Presley has ranked in the the top 5 every year, except 2021, that Forbes has compiled the list. This year, he ranked seventh with $30 million in earnings.

CelebrityNetworth, a website which reports on famous people's finances, Elvis' earnings stem from album sales and Graceland, his former home-turned-museum, which reportedly brings in more than $10 million a year.

1. Michael Jackson ($2.5 Billion)

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson performs during the Halftime show as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII at Rose Bowl on January 31, 1993 in Pasadena, California. Photo by George Rose/Getty Images/Getty Images

Another king, the "King of Pop," takes the crown as the highest-earning dead celebrity.

Since his death in 2009, Jackson has consistently ranked No.1 on Forbes list, missing the top spot only in 2012 (actress Elizabeth Taylor) and 2021 (author Roald Dahl).

This year, he is listed at No. 3 with $75 million.

Jackson's estate has continued to build after his death at only 50 years old. He earned $90 million in the four months after his death, and in 2016 he earned $825 million, the highest yearly earnings for a celebrity dead or alive.

His music was streamed more than a billion times last year, he has sold more than 750 million albums, and he remains one of the world's most recognizable artists.

In total Michael Jackson has raked in nearly $2.6 billion between 2009 and 2021.

Not Bad.