June 2018
Estate Planning Update
Lessons from Prince's Estate: This is What It Sounds Like When Dove's Cry
When Prince died in 2016, he did not have a will. He left an estate valued at some $200 million. Because he died without a will, his estate fell under the laws of intestate succession in his home state of Minnesota. That meant that his estate went to a predetermined list of heirs, typically his closest family members. And, instead of Prince deciding who managed the estate, the state of Minnesota did.  
Forty-five people filed claims as Prince’s heirs, either as his wife, children, siblings or other relatives. Many of them fought hard to be named one of Prince’s heirs that would receive a share of his $200 million estate.

However, Minneapolis Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide declared that Prince only had six heirs. They are his sister and five half-siblings. Prince had on and off relationships with many of his half-siblings, not speaking to or seeing some for years.
Comerica Bank, which the Minnesota judge appointed as the administrator of Prince’s estate, and attorneys for the estate have already collected at least $5.9 million in fees and expenses. Comerica and its attorneys have pending requests for $2.9 million in fees and expenses. All of these fees and expenses are paid out of the estate funds.
To date, the heirs have not received anything.  

The estate has already begun selling off property, including a multi-million-dollar, 10,000 square foot, five-acre resort retreat in Turks and Caicos with a long, winding purple driveway. 
No one knows whether Prince prepared a will, although none has been found. No one knows whether he intended that his estate be handled exactly as it is being handled now, divided among his siblings. Prince’s closest friends found it hard to believe that he did not prepare a will because he had not hesitated to have lawyers handle his affairs, including a costly legal battle against Warner Brothers to regain the rights to his music and that caused him, from the lawsuit’s inception in 1996 to its ending in 2014, to change his name from Prince to that unpronounceable glyph symbol.

But, we have what we have. A $200 million estate with no instructions from the decedent on how to proceed. Basically, a confusing, contentious and expensive mess.

Very few people die with a $200 million estate and no will. However, everyone can take these valuable lessons from the fact that Prince did:

1) If you want to control who gets your assets after you die, make a will or a trust while you are alive.
2) If you don’t make a will, the state will determine who gets your assets under its laws of intestate succession. There is a predetermined order in which your assets are distributed. Typically, your assets would first go to your spouse; if no spouse, then to your children; if no children, then to your parents; if no parents, then to your siblings, or some combination thereof.
3) If you have worked hard to build a business that you own to support yourself and your family and you want it to continue after your death to support your family, make a will or a trust. Otherwise, the court-appointed administrator can decide what to do with your business.
4) Your estate will pay maximum estate taxes if you die without having done some estate planning, such as creating a trust or other financial estate planning.
5) Family members you have not seen in years or who you do not even like may receive some of your money if you leave your estate up to the laws of intestate succession.
6) If you are a creative type, like Prince, and created copyrightable art (music, books, paintings, photos, etc.) during your lifetime, you can leave the rights to someone to benefit from your creative work in your will or in a trust.

So, take a lesson from Prince’s estate, because this is what it sounds like when dove’s cry.  

If you would like a copy of my newsletter on The Four Essential Estate Planning Documents, click on the link below or email me at svance@svancelawoffices.com.
Law Offices of Sheilah D. Vance, Esq., LLC | 215-557-9550 svance@svancelawoffices.com | www.svancelawoffices.com