Over the years, there have been numerous cases where unscrupulous parents, managers or employers have squandered the earnings of famous children. Most notably, musician LeAnn Rimes and actors Gary Coleman and Macaulay Culkin sued their parents for mismanaging their money.
Hollywood’s first well-known child star, Shirley Temple, died at the age of 85 just last month. She starred in more than 50 films, earning more than $3 million, by the time she retired at the age of 22. That amount of income was a huge fortune back in the 1930s but, unfortunately, her father squandered most of it, leaving her with barely anything to show for her years of work.
At the same time Temple was earning her wages, California legislators responded to a similar plight of another child actor. Jackie Coogan turned 21 and found out that his parents spent almost all of his millions earned in the 1920s after he was discovered at the age of four by Charlie Chaplin. Fortunately, he was able to continue working so he was not left destitute, but the appalling state of his financial affairs prodded lawmakers to enact safeguards for young entertainers.
Coogan’s Law, also known as The California Child Actor’s Bill, requires employers and managers of child entertainers – those under the age of 18 – to set aside 15 percent of each child’s earnings into a trust. The trust is the sole property of that child and is inaccessible until the child’s eighteenth birthday. Unfortunately, that leaves 85 percent of his or her income unprotected.
The entertainment industry generates billions of dollars each year worldwide. Many young actors, singers, dancers and other types of entertainers earn their fortunes years before they are old enough to manage their own incomes. At any age, it is important to retain trustworthy managers and advisors. Childhood entertainers, notably those appearing in television reality shows, are especially susceptible to mismanagement and current laws are still widely insufficient. As just one example, there are no earnings protection laws for childhood entertainers appearing in reality television shows filmed in the state of Georgia.
Hire a lawyer
Entertainers of any age, talent type or income level can benefit from the services of an experienced entertainment lawyer. An attorney knowledgeable about the legal aspects of such issues as protection of income and intellectual property content, movie rights, acting agreements and sports contracts can help structure safeguards for your earnings and assets.