With No Will, Prince Estate Heads Into “Uncharted Waters”

November 30, 2016, by Attorney, Shelley Thompson, Burns Figa & Will PC, Colorado

NBC News reported on June 27, 2016 that the Minnesota judge in Prince’s estate case said the case was heading into “uncharted waters,” in part because Prince had no will or living trust. In November 2016, it was reported that to date the lawyers involved in administering Prince’s estate have incurred fees of $2.3 million in just the first few months of administration!! Attorneys’ fees are always more, even in small estates, where there is no estate planning in place.

will or living trust Even worse than the attorneys’ fees, Prince was a very private person who kept great control over his unpublished music. Yet having no will or living trust means his music will be sold to the highest bidder and therefore controlled by someone he didn’t choose. This is too bad as it is exactly what Prince would NOT have wanted!

Some think Prince might have trusted Jay Z with publishing his music, given that he gave Jay Z’s Roc Nation the rights to stream at least one album on Tidal streaming service in 2015. Prince made that deal with Jay Z because he thought the streaming service was innovative and wanted to support it. But no one can say whether or not Prince would have entrusted all his music with Jay Z, or with anyone else, because he had no will or living trust. If Prince did want Jay Z to be able to stream his music, he would be saddened his estate is now suing Jay Z’s company for streaming more music than they say he had written permission from Prince to stream.

Prince, while very wealthy, had one thing in common with many Americans – he put off his estate planning. Like many of us, no doubt Prince felt frozen when he tried to think of someone he trusted to take possession of his beloved and private music, or to whom he would entrust those decisions, or who would inherit his millions, being unmarried with no children. Just like Prince, while everyone knows they need an estate plan, many people feel frozen when they think about to whom they would leave their assets, whom they trust to handle their estate, and whom they would trust with their power of attorney. Being frozen means doing nothing.

But just like Prince’s case, doing no estate planning can produce the worst possible result in anyone’s case. Prince’s music will likely end up with someone he would have NOT wanted to have it; and his estate is being administered by someone he did not choose. Various people are stepping up to say they are entitled to inherit his fortune; whereas, there were no doubt certain people or charities he would have liked to give money to.

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