After being pushed into second place by Elizabeth Taylor last year Jackson, who died in 2009, was back on top with estimated earnings of $160m (€115.9m) in the 12 months from Oct 2012 to 2013.
“He earned the bulk of his bucks from two Cirque du Soleil shows, his Mijac Music catalogue, recorded music sales, and his half of the Sony/ATV publishing empire, which includes the copyright to hits by the Beatles, Lady Gaga, Eminem, and Taylor Swift, among others,” Forbes said.
Presley was a distant second with $55m, followed by Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, who came in third for the second consecutive year with $37m.
Taylor dropped to fourth place with earnings of $25m, a huge dip from last year when her estate pulled in an estimated $210m, much of it from the auction of her jewels.
Reggae star Bob Marley rounded out the top five with earnings of $18m. The singer, who died of cancer at the age of 36 in 1981, has sold more than 75m albums in the past two decades, according to Forbes.
Marley is followed on the list by Marilyn Monroe. Forbes says Macy’s is selling a line of Monroe clothes, and Monroe cafes and spas are popping up around the US.
Next on the list, in seventh place, is ex-Beatle John Lennon, who was shot dead outside his New York apartment in 1980.
The singer gets earnings from Beatles albums sales — more than 63m albums sold in the US alone since 1992. Ventures such as the Cirque du Soleil show Love! in Las Vegas, continue to fill his coffers.
Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein, dropped one place to eighth this year with earnings of $10m,
Einstein’s appearance and his name remain valuable assets and Corbis, the photo library, gets more requests to license his image than for any other famous person.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem owns the rights to Einstein’s name.
Bettie Page, who died aged 85 in 2008, had earnings of $10m, as money still comes in for the ultimate pin-up girl.
Children’s author Dr Seuss, whose real name is Theodore Geisel, who died of natural causes in 1991, confirmed the enduring appeal of children’s books as he earned $9m in sales last year, placing him joint 10th with action film star Steve McQueen.
In joint 12th position were action film star Bruce Lee and Jenni Rivera, the Mexican-American singer who died in a plane crash in December at the age of 43.
Rivera was new to the list with earnings of $7m.
Forbes compiled the dead celebrity rich list by talking to estate managers, lawyers, and licensors and analysing estimated posthumous earnings from Oct 2012 to Oct 2013.