Kurt Cobain Leaps Over Elvis to Top Forbes List of Top-Earning Dead Celebrities

A nail in the casket is hardly the end for some stars. Instead, their work, as well as their iconic images, continues to appeal to fans who remember them, and to those born long after they died.

The 13 icons on our sixth annual Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list collectively earned $247 million in the last 12 months. Their estates continue to make money by inking deals involving both their work and the rights to use their name and likenesses on merchandise and marketing campaigns.

To land on this year's list, a star needed to make at least $7 million between October 2005 and October 2006.

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How does a posthumous star land — and stay — on our list? Solitary events — a successful film release or an estate sale — won't necessarily do it over the long term. Staying power comes from a body of work — or simply an iconic image — with long-lasting appeal.

Elvis Presley has both, which has kept the King near the top of our list every year. And last year, entertainment mogul Robert Sillerman's CKX paid $100 million for an 85 percent share of Presley's estate.

But a one-off event can catapult a star onto the list. Or, in the case of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, to the top. While his music continues to sell, his debut atop the list is largely due to his widow, Courtney Love, who sold a 25 percent stake in his song catalog to publishing company Primary Wave for a reported $50 million.

Thanks to this deal, audiences will be hearing much more of the angst-ridden rocker as his library graces the big and small screens. And, in a turn the rock star likely never imagined in his lifetime, his music may one day be used in advertising campaigns.

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