John Wayne: Who Did The Duke Leave Money For in His Will?

by Jennifer Shea

John Wayne was an acting legend. And he got quite rich doing it. But when it came time to draw up his will, the Duke left a couple of relatives out in the cold.

The iconic actor died on June 11, 1979, of cancer. His family was at his bedside at the time, according to Variety. Wayne had been in and out of the hospital frequently during the last year of his life. Doctors were reportedly trying to get him strong enough to undergo an experimental treatment for cancer.

So when Wayne’s lawyer filed his 27-page will in Orange County Superior Court in late June of that year, everyone was curious what it would say. And a few relatives were probably pretty upset with what they found.

John Wayne’s Will Took Care of His Children, If Not His Third Wife

Wayne’s estate was worth $6.85 million, the Associated Press reported. That included $1 million in real property, $5.75 million in personal property and $100,000 in income.

But Wayne’s third wife, Pilar, from whom he separated in 1973, got none of that. John S. Warren, Wayne’s lawyer, told the AP that there was a separation agreement that took care of the actor’s third wife.

Meanwhile, Wayne left $10,000 to his longtime secretary Mary St. John and $30,000 to his secretary at the time of his death, Pat Stacy.

Wayne had seven children. He left them each $5,000 multiplied by their age at the time of his death minus 21. His eldest son, Michael, who was then 44, thus got $115,000.

Wayne’s first wife, Josephine, received a trust account which provided her with monthly checks for $3,000. His second wife, Esperanza, died in the 1950s.

Wayne’s eldest daughter, Tony, was included in the will, but her husband, Donald La Cava, was expressly excluded. And he was barred from collecting his wife’s share upon her death. Wayne’s lawyer declined to explain why Wayne explicitly excluded his daughter’s husband.

Wayne’s Estate Also Included Art, Land Holdings

Under the terms of the will, all of Wayne’s paintings, sculptures and American Indian artifacts went to organizations that would allow his estate to claim tax deductions.

Wayne’s land holdings included his ranch in Arizona, a home on Newport Harbor and property on Puget Sound in Washington.

At the time of Wayne’s death, the administrators of the Wayne estate were Warren, Wayne’s lawyer, Wayne’s ranch partner Lewis Johnson and his eldest son Michael.