Prince Rogers Nelson died aged 57 last Thursday at his home, in suburban Minneapolis Minnesota. Estimates of his estate range from $150 million to $300 million.
Prince was married and divorced twice, had one child, Boy Gregory, born in 1996 with Pfeiffer syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, who died shortly after birth.
It has been reported that Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, has petitioned a Minneapolis court to appoint Bremer Trust, a neutral corporate trustee that Prince had worked with “for a number of years” and which had “knowledge of his personal-financial and business-financial affairs” administrator of the estate, as she does
“..not know of the existence of a will and have no reason to believe that the decedent executed testamentary documents in any form,”
Under Minnesota law the process of obtaining probate with or without a will is similar. Family members are usually favoured as executors where a person dies intestate. If the court approves the appointment, and if no heirs object, the executor can proceed with the administration of the estate.
The executor pays the deceased’s debts from the assets of the estate; after these debts are paid, including any taxes owed, the executor is free to divide the remainder of the estate among the heirs.
If no Will is found Prince’s estate has to be distributed according to Minnesota state law. If Prince was married or in a de facto relationship his spouse would receive the entire estate after debts and taxes were paid. As Prince had no spouse or children, his estate would be divided first between his parents, (who both pre deceased him) and if they are not living, then between Tyka, his half siblings and their descendants.
Prince, employed a number of lawyers during his career, making it difficult to know if a Will exists. However it has been reported that he had not wanted to make a Will; a former lawyer, was quoted:
“It’s likely there is no will. He couldn’t face it. He didn’t think he would die.”
Others were surprised Prince had died without a will, given the control he exerted over his image, likeness, name and recordings.
Then again Prince simply may not have wanted to leave a will, his assets, including his Paisley Park estate his possessions, such as guitars and memorabilia; and music, would then be distributed to his heirs according to state law.
Similarly Prince may have established a trust during his life that included all of his assets. A trust is created so that a trustee holds the property for the benefit of another. Prince may not need a Will if he had informed the trustee of his wishes as to the distribution of trust property.
If a Will does turn up, the probate process continues; a Will may change who inherits from the estate, but it doesn’t change what needs to be done as far as payment of estate taxes, and debt settlement.
It was thought that Micheal Jackson hadn’t left a Will when he died in 2009 however, a number of successive wills materialised, probate was granted on his 2002 Will, and his estate was left to a family trust.
Minnesota law provides half siblings with as much claim to an inheritance as full siblings. In fact there could be disputes as to who will be appointed executor because his siblings are “equally entitled to handle the estate.”
Prince’s royalties could prove contentious but as the estate administrator has worked with Prince prior to his death and is knowledgeable about his business and personal affairs; including potential licensing rights for film, TV, commercials and videogames, this is unlikely.
Aside from royalties from over 30 albums, Prince recently regained ownership of his master recordings after a dispute with Warner Bros. music label. It has been reported that he has several vaults of unheard recordings, enabling a new Prince album to be released every year for 100 years – including an album with Miles Davis.
Since last Thursday sales of Prince has sold more than 2.3 million songs and some 580,000 albums.