estate, estate battles, contesting a will, challenging a will

The battle over the estate of pop star Prince looks like it is only just beginning. Prince was only 57 when he died on April 21, and it is thought that he died without a will. This means there is likely to be a drawn out battle over his estate.

The daughter and granddaughter of a man who claimed during his lifetime to have been Prince’s half-brother asked a Minnesota state court Wednesday to recognize them as heirs to the late pop superstar’s multi-million-dollar estate.

Brianna and Victoria Nelson sought to intervene in ongoing probate proceedings with the Carver County District Court, stating that they are the heirs of the late Duane Nelson Sr., identified in their filings as the son of Prince’s father, John L. Nelson.

Throughout his life, Duane Nelson Sr. publicly referred to himself as Prince’s half-brother, and multiple press reports, including his 2011 obituary in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, did likewise.

It is only the latest claim upon the estate, which has been deluged by claims prompting a request for his blood to be DNA tested. Bremer Trust, appointed to temporarily oversee Prince’s assets, has been given permission by a Minnesota judge to obtain a sample of his blood held by the Midwest Medical Examiner.

Who Will Inherit Prince’s Estate?

At least one man claims to be Prince’s son, but without confirmation – and unless a will turns up – Prince’s sister and half-siblings are first in line to inherit his estate.

estate, estate battles, contesting a will, challenging a will, dying without a will

(Photo credit: CAP/MediaPunch/MediaPunch/IPx)

Tyka Nelson insists there is no bad blood between herself and her siblings as they attempt to divide the late star’s assets, contrary to reports they’re all bickering over who should get what in the absence of a will.

Tyka, who filed legal documents to appoint a special administrator to the music icon’s estate, took to Facebook on Friday to update fans and assured them that she and her half-brothers “remain united” as they continue to mourn the loss of Prince.

“To my knowledge… No One in my family has fought about anything, and least of all me… but I must admit I think it’s funny that I’m the one they say, ‘Stormed out…’ or that ‘We are at war’ Me? Us? Really? Where was I when all that happened?”

Prince’s estate is estimated to be $300 million and his sister said he had left no will.

Possible heirs include Nelson and five half siblings. Prince’s only known child was a son, Boy Gregory, who died a week after his birth in October 1996, due to a rare genetic disorder called Pfeiffer syndrome.

The Estate Will Be Taxed Heavily

As the singer had no will, it is expected more than 50 per cent of Prince’s estate will be lost to death taxes.

Minnesota’s death tax rate, one of the highest in the US, is 16 per cent. After the US federal government 40 per cent death tax is added, a total of 56 per cent death tax will be applied.

The value of his music catalogue alone has been estimated at over $US500 million ($652 million) according to Prince’s first manager, Owen Husney. That included potential licensing rights for film, TV, commercials and video games that Prince rarely exploited, Husney said last week.

Since his death, sales of his albums have soared; more than 2.3 million songs and some 580,000 albums have sold since Thursday, according to Nielsen Music.

Speculation suggests Prince’s money – and huge estate – could now be left to the Jehovah’s Witnesses church he attended for nearly 15 years.

estate, estate planning

Dying without a will is a disaster.

Kingdom Hall in Chanhassen – hidden behind a line of trees less than half a mile from the Prince’s property – is said to be where the singer went to after converting to the faith in 2001. If the fortune does not go to the church, Minnesota law states that if there is no will the estate first falls to grandchildren. Parents and siblings are next, followed by any other relations.

If Prince truly did pass away with neither a will or a trust, then his sister and half-siblings stand to inherit his estate. Under Minnesota law, when someone dies without a will, and with no spouse, children or parents, then the individual’s siblings become the heirs entitled to receive the assets in the estate.  Half-siblings are treated as full siblings under the state law, so Prince’s half-brothers and sisters would be on equal footing with his full sister, Tyka.

The Search For Biological Children

But first the question of children will have to be addressed.  Without a will or trust, Prince’s estate would potentially pass to anyone who could prove that he or she was a biological child of Prince.  This opens the doors to potentially dozens, if not hundreds, of people coming to court asking for paternity tests to try to win a golden ticket to the Prince lottery.  In fact, someone would not even have to be a biological child of Prince to share in the inheritance.  If someone could prove biological relationship as a brother, sister, or possibly even a niece or nephew of a deceased sibling of Prince, then that person could be an heir as well.

Who Will Control Prince’s Legacy?

There is also the question of who controls Prince’s legacy. With no will, the court would name an executor of the estate, with authority to conduct business involving all of Prince’s assets. Would Tyka be named the executor? Does she have the ability to handle a multi-million dollar estate? Will Prince’s half-siblings fight her in court? Who did Prince want to negotiate his legacy?

And that’s not even the biggest problem that would arise if Prince died with no will or trust.  Even more troubling is the reality that Prince would have had absolutely no say in who will control and benefit by his legacy, image and likeness rights, brand, and his musical creations.  This is a common problem, repeated time and time again, with musicians who die young or unexpectedly.

estate, estate planning, dying without a willThe best example was Jimi Hendrix. He passed away at the age of 27 with no will or trust, so everything passed to his father under New York intestate law.  When his father died years later, it led to a long and expensive court battle over who would control the Hendrix legacy, brand, and music.  Ultimately, the adopted half-sister of Jimi, whom he only met a couple of times before he died, won control.  Is this what Jimi would have wanted? His brother that he toured with and shared a close relationship with has no control over, and did not benefit financially from, Jimi’s legacy.

You don’t need to be a pop star worth hundreds of millions of dollars to learn lessons from Prince’s demise. Dying without a will means that not only do you have no say in who gets your assets, but no say in who will look after your children, who the executor of your estate should be or how much will have to be paid in taxes. Nor will it account for complex family arrangements.

Dying without a will is often a disaster. To avoid this, contact us today to speak to our experienced team about your estate planning needs.