Prince Died Without a Will, According to Court Documents Filed by His Sister

Posted by Freiwald Law on April 27, 2016

Prince died without a will, according to court documents filed by his sister on Tuesday, potentially causing big complications for that star’s sprawling financial estate and musical legacy.

In probate documents filed with the Carver County District Court in Minnesota, Tyka Nelson, 55, Prince’s sister, said that her brother died without a spouse, children or surviving parents, and that “I do not know of the existence of a will.”

Ms. Nelson’s petition also listed five half-siblings as heirs, and asked the court to appoint a special administrator for the estate “because no personal representative has been appointed in Minnesota or elsewhere.” Minnesota law treats surviving half-siblings the same as full siblings, raising the possibility of a drawn-out family battle.

In the music business, Prince — who died on Thursday at 57 — was known as a mercurial star who cycled through lawyers and representatives frequently, and who often preferred to deal personally with record companies, concert promoters and even digital music services. But that history of self-sufficiency could have severe consequences if Prince did not leave an orderly estate — a strong possibility if no will turns up, several music-industry lawyers and executives said.

“It could be a huge tragedy,” said Howard E. King, a veteran entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles who represented Prince in the past. “You could have a difference in valuation of hundreds of millions of dollars depending on whether the right people get in there to manage the legacy of Prince.”

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Attorney Comment:

A legendary musician has died and headlines all over the news read “Prince Died Without a Will.” Despite his larger than life persona, he was still a human being, and capable of making mistakes. Now, his family is going to have to pay a very steep price. Estimates of the value of his estate vary widely, but an estimate from Investopedia puts his estate at over $300 million with potentially several hundred million more in unreleased albums and sales.

His failure to create a will means he had no plan to control his post-mortem affairs, or direct the distribution of his assets to those he cared about. As a result, his property is going to be distributed according to Minnesota State law. Prince had no spouse or children, but he did leave a sister and five half-siblings and Minnesota State law treats half-siblings the same as full siblings. This situation is likely going to be the cause of much grief, strife, and bitterness, as his family fights over who has rightful claim to portions of his massive estate.

The unfortunate reality of the situation is that all of the controversy that we will predictably see over the coming months could have easily been avoided if Prince had simply taken the time to make a will. There is a lesson to be learned here.

Having a will drafted is one of the most critically important things an adult can do. However, wills are not only for the extreme wealthy; everyone can benefit from having an estate plan in place. A will, by itself, controls the distribution of your assets and ensures that your loved ones are cared for as you see fit. A will can be used to name a guardian for any minor children you have. A will can nominate a trusted individual to become the “executor,” who will handle your affairs competently, and in accordance with your expressed wishes.

At Community Legal Advisors (CLA), we understand the importance of having a will, and we know how much stress and anxiety having a properly drafted estate plan can alleviate. We also know it can be expensive and confusing to get the help you need. With Community Legal Advisors, you can get a professionally drafted simple will, a document no adult should be without, for the extremely low price of $125. For a complete list of our services and prices, visit the Community Legal Advisors page.