What Happens to Heath Ledger’s Oscar?

A good summary of the facts to date from Professor Berry:

  • Australian actor Heath Ledger died on January 22, 2008 in New York City from an accidental drug overdose. 
  • Heath was well-known for starring in the movie Brokeback Mountain and for the role of “The Joker” in the Batman movie, The Dark Knight.
  • According to Jose Martinez, Heath Ledger assets go to parents, siblings, [New York] Daily News, March 8, 2008, Heath prepared a three page will in Australia in 2003 before becoming successful.  This will leaves his entire estate to his parents and siblings.
  • After executing this will, however, Heath’s former partner gave birth to a child, Matilda Rose Ledger.
  • According to Wendy Caccetta, Heath Ledger’s Matilda to get the lot, Perth Now, Sept. 27, 2008, Heath’s family has decided to allow the entire estate estimated at $20 million to pass to Matilda despite the provisions of Heath’s will.

Professor Berry addressed the following in this post on Feburary 19:  “An interesting issue has now been raised — what would happen if Heath won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his Joker performance?”  The goof professoir cites to an article by Steve Pond, And the Oscar goes to Matilda if Ledger wins, Yahoo! News, Feb. 18, 2009, which explains that Matilda would become the owner of the Oscar statuette.

It gets interesting when Professor Berry explains that:

because she is only 3, Matilda is legally unable to sign the winner’s agreement — a contract required of all nominees that says the recipient will not resell his or her Oscar without first offering it back to the academy for $1. The agreement is the academy’s way of limiting what might otherwise be a lively secondary market in Oscars.

It is true a guardian could sign such an agreement and it would be binding until Matilda reaches 18 but after that, the agreement would not be binding on her.  To solve this problem, the Academy and Ledger’s family have agreed to this solution — Matilda’s mother will hold the statuette in trust until Matilda reaches 18 at which point she must either sign the agreement or return the statuette to the Academy.

Very interesting stuff.  Thank you Professor!

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