Prince’s passing sets off dispute over estate

Prince's death may be followed by a bitter estate dispute.

Prince’s death may be followed by a bitter estate dispute.

On April 21, 2016 the world lost another superstar talent.  Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016), known to the world simply as “Prince” was found dead in his Paisley Park home in Minnesota. He was 57 years old. The circumstances of his death are still under investigation. His premature death has caused grief to millions of fans around the world.

The news of Prince’s death was immediately followed by the revelation that he died without a will. Apparently, Prince had no living children, and after his death his younger sister Tyka Nelson allegedly filed paperwork requesting a Court in Minneapolis to name Bremer Trust, a bank where Prince conducted business, to oversee his estate. As Prince had no children, under Minnesota law the estate goes to the closest relatives. As such, it seems that  Prince’s one sibling and five half-siblings may be entitled to a share of the estate. Whether that ends up being the way the estate is allocated is not clear. Neither is the size of the shares the eventual beneficiaries will receive. What is known is that Prince’s estate is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and the estate will likely continue generating significant future earnings from royalties and publishing rights.

The siblings have not been able to agree on how the estate assets should be allocated. A family meeting allegedly took place, and according to a story published in the International Business Times and found here, the meeting failed.

The first Court appearance took place on May 2, 2016 and Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide finalized the appointment of Bremer Trust. The family is continuing the search for a will.

Prince’s death without a will is unfortunately not unusual. The great Jimi Hendrix also passed away intestate. His family was involved in litigation for several decades. Ensuring a will is in place is important for any estate.  The size of the estate may play a role in the kind of estate planning strategy a person selects, but it should not preclude a person from preparing the proper documentation.

Most common law jurisdictions have default legislation that covers death without a will. An estate like the Prince estate may be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but without a proper will, estate administration and distribution are covered by default legislation.  This may have unintended consequences for all of the parties and potential beneficiaries.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the Prince estate. Hopefully, the parties will be able to resolve their differences and come to an agreement as to how the estate ought to be divided. More on this story here.