Celebrity Probate: Salvator Phillip Bono

By Mary Lou Floyd, CCLS



Salvator Phillip Bono aka Sonny Bono

Sonny Bono – singer, songwriter, television star, restaurateur, mayor of Palm Springs, and elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Date of Death:

January 5, 1998.

Age at Time of Death:

62 years old.

Cause of Death:

A skiing accident in Lake Tahoe, California (Heavenly Ski Resort) – he hit a tree while skiing alone and suffered massive head injuries.


$2 million (excluding copyrights and royalty rights).

Estate Plan or Will:


Family Tree:

1954 – Married first wife, Donna Rankin. Children from this marriage: daughter Christy Bono. This marriage ended in divorce in 1962.

1964 – Married second wife, Cher. Children from this marriage: daughter Chastity Bono (now Chaz Bono). This marriage ended in divorce in 1975.

1981 – Married third wife, Susie Coelho. No children from this marriage. This marriage ended in divorce in 1984.

1996 – Married fourth wife and surviving spouse, Mary Bono. Children from this marriage: a daughter, Chianna, and a son, Chesare.


Shortly after Sonny Bono’s death, Mary Bono filed a petition to be appointed the administrator of the estate.

Even though Cher’s net worth was over $300 million, she filed a claim against the estate for $1.6 million in unpaid alimony.

Six months after Sonny’s death, Sean Machu filed a claim against the estate claiming to be a rightful heir. He claimed Sonny was his biological father and Salvator Bono was indeed listed on his birth certificate as his father. However, Sean withdrew his petition when DNA tests were requested. There is conflicting information about this. Some historical and news sites indicate the DNA tests were kept private and Sean withdrew his petition. Other information indicates Sean withdrew his petition when asked to undergo DNA testing. Either way, the petition filed by Sean Machu was withdrawn.

Final Verdict: The court ordered Sonny Bono’s estate be divided between his surviving spouse, Mary Bono, his daughter Chastity (now Chaz) Bono, and his other daughter Christy Bono Fasce.

Information was gathered from online historical websites, various news formats (CBS, NBC), and general online information easily accessed through a general Google search.


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