From the Desk of Lauran Corcoran
Will the Heirs Cry?
After the first hearing on Prince’s estate concluded on Monday, the judge did not rule conclusively that Prince died without a valid Will only that a Will could not be currently found. The judge asked the packed courtroom if anyone knew of a will but no response was made. The Bremer Trust, who was appointed the special administrator on Monday, stated they would continue to look for a will.
Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, who filed the request to appoint a special administrator was present along with Prince’s half-siblings, Alfred Jackson, Norrine Nelson, Sharon Nelson and Omarr Bake. John Nelson did not appear in court. The intestate laws of Minnesota, like most states, provide for the distribution of the estate to family members. When someone dies intestate leaving behind a spouse or children, the estate goes to the spouse or the children depending upon the familial relationships. When there is no spouse, the estate goes to the “issue” of the decedent. This means the children, grand-children or even great grandchildren of the decedent. If the decedent dies leaving no issue, the estate is given to the parents equally if both living or the entire estate to the living parent. If no parent is then living, the estate is distributed to the “issue” of the parents. In Prince’s case, this means that his half-siblings will receive the same percentage as his full sibling because the statute does not make any distinction between full siblings and half siblings but instead defines the beneficiary class as those who share a common parent with Prince.
Not surprisingly, there are rumors about other heirs that were not listed in the Petition. For example, an LA based firm called “Heir Hunters International” has alleged that Prince’s half-brother who died in 2011 has a granddaughter. Under the intestate laws as described above, she will also stand to inherit as much as the siblings.
None of the siblings commented on the proceedings, but an interesting question lingers. If a Will is uncovered, what will the heirs say? Presuming that Prince did not leave his estate in equal shares to the six named heirs in the petition, the heirs would be denied an inheritance of millions of dollars each. If a Will is found, will these heirs not be very interested in challenging its validity?
It’s hard to imagine that Prince went through his life without being advised to set up an estate plan considering his incredible wealth and unique assets. As a spectator to this event, I would posture that attorneys are not to blame here. Prince likely was advised on a constant basis that he should get a comprehensive estate plan in place. He may have even discussed his wishes with an attorney. However, without the execution of any estate plan documents, which an attorney cannot enforce on a client; this is a moot point.