Yauch could only give away what he owned. So to know whether the handwritten words Yauch added to his will can be enforced, one has to know who owned the copyrights associated with his music.
The recent passing of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys sheds light on why DIY estate planning is a huge risk. A last-minute, handwritten addition to his will may not be lawfully legit and could cause years of legal headaches for his heirs if they pursue his request.
Forbes recently analyzed the Last Will of Mr. Yauch in an article titled “Part Of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch's Will, Banning Use Of Music In Ads, May Not Be Valid.” It seems one of his last decisions and a last act of defiance was to make pen-and-ink revisions within a common legal provision. Unfortunately for Mr. Yauch, the language he chose and the addition itself did not work.
So, what went wrong?
The Last Will already specified that Mr. Yauch’s image and name aren’t to be used for any advertising purposes, but then he penciled in “or any music or any artistic property created by me.” Unfortunately the music of the Beastie Boys doesn’t belong to Yauch in the same way his image does, it also belongs to the other Beastie Boys. Bottom line: Mr. Yauch injected a provision related to copyrights into a statement about publicity rights.
In the end, making DIY pen-and-ink changes should be left to the professionals if you want to ensure your wishes are carried through.
Reference: Forbes (August 13, 2012) “Part Of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch's Will, Banning Use Of Music In Ads, May Not Be Valid”