Friends is responsible for skyrocketing its six stars to fame over its 10-season run from 1994 to 2004. Even nearly 20 years since its final episode, the NBC sitcom is arguably the biggest achievement in the careers of Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer. Because of its continued popularity, Friends also remains quite the moneymaker for them as well, with the cast reportedly each pulling in a cool $20 million a year in syndication and streaming revenue. Now that Perry has passed away at the age of 54, what will happen to his share of the earnings?
Matthew Perry, best known for his portrayal of Chandler Bing on Friends, died October 28 in a presumed drowning at his home in Los Angeles. The actor never married or had children, calling into question who will be the beneficiary of his estate. Charlie Douglas, a certified financial planner and president of HH Legacy Investments in Atlanta, told CNBC there are three possibilities for inheritance based on California laws.
First, Matthew Perry might have named beneficiaries of his residuals through SAG-AFTRA, which the planner said is similar to employees designating who should receive their 401(k) or retirement benefits in the case of death. Secondly, the actor may have named a trust, rather than a person, to be in charge of how the funds were used. The final possibility is that Perry didn’t name a beneficiary, and state law would determine what happens to his estate.
In most states, Charlie Douglas said, there is a hierarchy of who should receive the benefits in the case that there was no specification by the deceased. That goes in order from spouses and children to parents and siblings. The planner said if Matthew Perry died without named beneficiaries, it’s likely that his parents would inherit his estate, and they could choose whether or not to make a “qualified disclaimer” that would bypass them and give their son’s residuals to his five half-siblings.
Given Matthew Perry’s own wishes for his legacy, it’s also possible that charity will factor into his inheritance, if he did, in fact, have a will. The actor struggled with addiction, writing about it in his memoir Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing and speaking openly about it, especially in what turned out to be the last year of his life. He hoped to not just be remembered as Chandler from Friends but for the help he provided others with issues similar to his.
Whoever ends up in possession of Matthew Perry’s residuals, it seems like Friends will continue to be a big part of that. While Warner Bros. would not comment on how much the Friends cast gets paid in royalties, Perry himself indicated that his residual checks were substantial, joking to Andy Cohen in 2022 that he “bought Iowa.” Knowing how the six main cast members famously negotiated to make $1 million apiece per episode on Friends, it does make sense that they would have secured a good deal when it came to syndication.
Speaking of Matthew Perry’s co-stars, the five surviving Friends released a joint statement, saying they were “utterly devastated” over the loss of their friend. That sentiment was echoed by many in Hollywood, with former guest stars from the sitcom Selma Blair and Paget Brewster among those paying tribute to the actor.
Our thoughts continue to go out to all of those affected by the Friends alum’s death, and you can check out the best Matthew Perry movies and TV shows to watch in his honor, including Friends, with all 10 seasons available to stream with a Max subscription.