Michael Jackson was the top-earning dead celebrity of the past year, according to a list done by Forbes. Jackson's estate netted an estimated $160 million in a one year span. Not only does this total make him the top-earning dead celebrity, it actually makes him the top-earning celebrity, dead or alive. Second place overall is Madonna, who made $125 million. Not a small amount by any means, but that's $35 million less than what Jackson made from the grave.
Jackson's posthumous earnings have been well-documented. His Estate has done an impressive job turning around a $500 million debt that Jackson left upon his death into a $600 million surplus. The cornerstone of the deceased singer's current success is his Estate's partnership with Cirque du Soleil to create a tribute show for him called One.
Behind Jackson amongst dead celebrities was Elvis Presley, who netted $55 million in the past year.