BRING ON THE RAIN: If Probate attorneys discuss the stormy consequences of Prince not having a Will

 In Estate Planning

LONDON – AUGUST 15: The artist formerly known as Prince arrives at the The Bourne Ultimatum UK film premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square on August 15, 2007 in London, England. (Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images)

The death of legendary musician Prince on April 21, 2016 at the age of 57 rocked the world of 80’s music fans.  His music will endure, but what about his real legacy?  According to court filings in Minnesota, no will has been located.  What happens if Prince died without a will or trust?


Who are Prince’s Heirs?

Who will inherit Prince’s fortune, which some estimate is worth $300 million?  If he died without a will or trust, the court will determine who his heirs are according to Minnesota law.  He was not married and his parents are not living, so according to law his estate will go to his children if he has any.  His only known child, born to his then-wife Mayte Garcia, died shortly after birth. A man is now claiming that he is the “love child” of Prince.  Will more people claim to be Prince’s love child and inherit his estate?  DNA testing and legal wrangling will likely ensue.


If Prince had no children, Minnesota law provides that his full sister, Tyka Nelson, and his half-siblings will share the estate equally.  He has 5 half-siblings.  Another half-sibling died years ago and left a granddaughter who would inherit that sibling’s share.  So the estate would be split 7 ways.  Will there be more people asserting that they are children of Prince’s parents and are therefore half-siblings?


Did Prince intend to leave his estate to these seven people in equal shares?  Did he have close relationships with all of them and wish to treat them equally?  Did he want to leave anything to charity?  Without a will or trust we may not know.  If he had a properly drafted will or trust, he would have specified who he would like to have named as his beneficiaries, and could prevent a nasty courtroom battle over who the heirs are.


Are Prince’s Heirs Protected?

If Prince did not have a will or trust, when the heirs inherit his estate, along with ongoing royalties, that money may not be protected.  It could be lost to creditors or in a divorce, bankruptcy or a lawsuit.  It could be mismanaged and spent in a short time.  With properly created trusts, Prince could have protected his beneficiaries’ inheritance from their creditors, predators and spouses.

How Much Are the Estate Taxes?

The IRS imposes a 40% tax on the portion of the estate that exceeds $4.5 million, and the state of Minnesota has a tax of 16% on estates over $1.6 million.  Prince’s estate tax bill could be $150 million—that money goes to the government and not to his beneficiaries.  With proper trusts and tax planning, Prince could have significantly reduced the estate tax burden.


Who Manages His Music and Image?

Prince was known to value privacy and to control the distribution of his music.  Who will now be the one (or ones) to decide how and when to release his vault of unpublished music?  Who will manage his royalties and distribute his music?  Who will be in charge of licensing Prince’s songs, his likeness, his name?  Will we see cereal or spaghetti noodles in the shape of Prince’s special symbol?  Will there be a Prince clothing line full of purple and lace and raspberry berets at Kohl’s, or a Prince model red Corvette?  Prince costumes and masks at Party City?  Commercials blasting “Purple Rain” or “Kiss?”


At a court hearing on Monday, the court confirmed the naming of Bremer Trust as temporary administrator of Prince’s estate until a personal representative is named.  If Prince did not have a will or trust, he did not leave instructions on how he wanted his music, record label and Paisley Park compound handled.  Will it be run the same way Prince would?  Will his privacy be maintained? Will the heirs try to maximize income by licensing Prince products, or will they respect Prince’s artistic sensibilities?


How Much Will Probate Cost?

If no will or trust is found, the litigation costs for determining the identity of Prince’s heirs and administering his estate could be astronomical.  It could take years.  A properly drafted estate plan could have resulted in minimal probate costs and a quicker resolution of the estate.


What Does this Have to do with Me?

If Prince died without a will or trust, it will be a holy mess.  It may interest us, but our lives are not affected.  It does, however, give us an opportunity to ask ourselves what will happen when we pass away?  Do we have an estate plan in place, with a will and/or trust, so that the person we choose is in charge of our estate, and our assets go to the people we want it to go to?  Will we protect our beneficiaries’ inheritance from their creditors and others?  If we have a business do we have a succession plan?  Is our privacy maintained by providing for administration without court litigation?  Have we minimized taxes and the stress and expense of probate?


Where to get probate advice

If you, a family member or friend haven’t set up an estate plan, or need and update, contact Sherrie Frank at 214-269-4290, at the Weeks Law Firm in Plano, and she’ll explain the process and tell you how to get started.

Our team of attorneys in Allen are to help you with your probate needs.

Contact us for more information today.

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