Richard Pryor during Photo Session with Comedian Richard Pryor at Beverly Hills Hotel
Source: Getty Images

Family Feud: The Controversy Surrounding Richard Pryor's Estate Explained

Richard Pryor left behind a multi-million dollar legacy when he died. Here's the truth about who inherited the comedian's vast estate.


Mar. 18 2024, Published 8:14 p.m. ET

Few comedians have been able to leave behind a legacy like the great Richard Pryor. Born in Peoria, Ill., the legendary funnyman faced numerous challenges throughout his life but went on to become a comedy icon.

His early years were marked by poverty, familial struggles, and personal demons. However, those experiences would serve as the foundation for Richard’s distinctive comedic style.

He started his career in the 1960s, performing stand-up routines in various New York City clubs. Things took off for Richard in the 1970s, after a string of late-night appearances and live performances catapulted him into stardom. His stand-up specials, like Richard Pryor: Live in Concert, remain iconic landmarks in the history of comedy.

The comedian left behind not only a legacy of laughter but also a complex estate that has been subject to familial disputes since his death in 2005.

richard pryor in a tux circa
Source: Getty Images

Richard Pryor in a tuxedo heading to an event in 1970.

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Who inherited Richard Pryor’s estate? Details on the nasty legal battle.

On Dec. 10, 2005, police were called to Richard Pryor’s home after the comedian suffered a heart attack, NPR reported. Richard’s manager confirmed the news in a statement, revealing that the Stir Crazy actor’s health had been failing for some years before his passing.

Richard’s death marked the end of an era in comedy and sparked a nasty legal battle for his hefty estate.

Richard remarried his ex-wife, Jennifer Lee, in 2001. Reports suggest that Richard amended his trust after rekindling his romance with Jennifer, giving her authority over the comedian’s financial and intellectual properties.

After the stand-up legend’s death, his children filed a motion to remove Jennifer as the trustee over Richard’s estate. TMZ reported that the comedian’s daughter, Elizabeth, accused Jennifer of elder abuse, but she ultimately lost the battle.

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comedian richard pryor and producer jennifer lee pose for the photographer at the laugh factory
Source: Getty Images

Comedian Richard Pryor and producer Jennifer Lee pose for the photographer at the Laugh Factory

What was Richard Pryor’s net worth at the time of his death?

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Richard’s earnings sat at $40 million when he died in 2002. One of Pryor's most notable financial achievements was his groundbreaking deal with NBC, which saw him become one of the highest-paid television stars at the time.

The $40 million contract resulted in the creation of Silver Streak, Which Way Is Up? and Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip.

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Who were Richard Pryor’s wife and kids?

Throughout his life, Richard was married a total of seven times to five different women.

His most high-profile marriage was to actress and model, Jennifer Lee, whom he married twice — first in 1981 and again in 2001. Jennifer played a significant role in the comedian’s life as his wife and as a caretaker during his battles with addiction and health issues.

In addition to his marriages, Pryor also had several children – Renée, Richard Jr., Elizabeth, Rain, Stephen, Franklin, and Kelsey.

comedian and actor richard pryor and his future wife twice jennifer lee attend the annual share p
Source: Getty Images

Comedian and actor Richard Pryor and his future wife (twice), Jennifer Lee attend the annual SHARE party

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Richard’s legacy will live on through his children, but some are hoping to bring his story to the big screen. In 2014, Lee Daniels announced that he would be producing the biopic, with Mike Epps starring as Richard.

However, the project was shelved, and Jennifer later joined forces with Kenya Barris for a new movie based on Richard’s life – without Mike.

Mike opened up about the ordeal during an appearance on All The Smoke and claimed that he was replaced in the film after refusing to sleep with Jennifer.

“I didn’t screw his wife, his ex-wife and she got mad,” Mike professed. However, Jennifer shot down his accusation, suggesting that Mike was replaced because he had “aged out” of the role.

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