The Queen of Salsa’s Estate Plan … Complicated By Mr. Knight

celia cruz

by Estate Planning Attorney Nydia Menendez

Celia Cruz was a Cuban American salsa singer who became a legendary icon of the Latin Music world. She was known as The Queen of Salsa – a title well deserved, because her style and music definitely reigned supreme. She was famous for her vibrant voice, flamboyant costumes, brightly colored wigs, and her signature line, Azúcar!

The Queen of Salsa was born in Santos Suárez, a working-class neighborhood in Havana, Cuba. She started her musical career at a very early age. Although her father wanted her to become a teacher, Celia decided to follow her dreams and passion for singing. When she was a young girl, her aunt and cousin would take her clandestinely to sing in cabarets and compete in radio talent contests. At age 25, Celia joined “La Sonora Matancera,” Cuba’s most popular orchestra. She became the first black woman to be the lead singer in a band, making history across the island.

In 1961, Celia moved to the U.S. and married Pedro Knight, a longtime friend and trumpet player. She referred to him as “mi cabezita de algodón,” which means “my cotton head.” Totally adorable! Over the course of an amazing career, Celia recorded more than 80 albums and songs, earned 23 Gold Records, and won five Grammy Awards. She performed with a wide range of celebrities, including Gloria Estefan and Dionne Warwick. Celia Cruz earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts by former President Bill Clinton.

Pedro Knight, Celia’s husband, also became her manager. Together they built a multi-million-dollar fortune, which he inherited when she passed in New Jersey in 2003. She was only 77 years old.

However, shortly after Celia’s death, Pedro began suffering from dementia, which meant that the designated executors would manage Celia’s estate. In this case there were at least two co-executors.

By 2006 accusations were levied against one of the co-executors. He was accused of draining funds in excess of a million dollars to make extravagant expenditures, and of exercising improper influence over Pedro. This executor was eventually removed by a court.

Although Celia Cruz did everything right with respect to her music, she failed to carefully select the people she appointed as executors of her estate. So, the moral of the story is this – make sure the people you appoint to serve in your Estate Plan have these three criteria:

1 – They are trustworthy.

2 – They know what they are doing, either having the necessary skills themselves, or being wise enough to hire the right people.

3 – They will do whatever needs to be done per your instructions.

No one can replace you! This is why you need to make sure you appoint the right person or persons to handle your affairs exactly the way you would want.

How Can You Get Started with Your Estate Plan?

If you want to learn more about how to plan for your future to make sure you remain in control of your decisions while leaving a lasting legacy for your family, we invite you to call our office at (954) 963-7220 to speak with a member of the Menéndez Law Firm. You may also want to watch the video series on our YouTube channel where we talk about Estate Planning in detail. Or if you would like to join us for the next live Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning webinar on Zoom you can register at no charge on our website

Nydia Menedez Nydia Menéndez
Estate Planning Attorney
Menéndez Law Firm
2699 Stirling Road, Suite B200
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
Tel.: (954) 963-7220
Fax:  (954) 963-7232
menedez law firm

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