Prince Dropped the Ball—or the Money!

princeLocal but world famous musician, Prince, unfortunately died recently.  Also unfortunately, for his family and others, he didn’t have a will.  Statistics show that less than half of Americans don’t have a will either.  But for someone like Prince (estimated value of his assets is over $100 million) not having a will is a disaster.  See the story in the Star Tribune:

—A will is a legal document that simply acts like a road map: it tells the family and the world where the person wanted their money and valuables to go after their death.  Last week, a half dozen family members showed up in court to claim something from Prince’s money.  Many more people are coming out of the woodwork saying they’re related to Prince and should get something.  So far, everyone’s friendly with one another.  I’ve handled a few probates cases as a lawyer—sometimes it brings out the best in a family, sometimes the worst.  I hope the family remains cooperative, but don’t be surprised if we see “Jurassic Park” where everyone wants to eat each other at some point.

—A will would prevent a lot of potential fighting because Prince’s wishes would be clearly stated and not open to argument.  He could even have listed all of his guitars and designated which relative would get each instrument!

—In Minnesota if a person dies without a will, the law says that everything would go to Prince’s wife.  Trouble is, he wasn’t married.  The next spot would be for his children to get everything in equal shares.  His only child died.  Then, it would go to Prince’s parents and siblings, which is where the case is now.  But with as much money involved and the complicated businesses Prince had, dividing it all up will be a long, difficult mess.

—How will it be divided?  No one knows yet.  The court has appointed a special administrator to find all the assets and where they’re located (bank accounts for instance) and determine how much they’re worth.  Creditors must be paid first before any family member sees a dime.  It doesn’t sound too hard, but Prince was notorious for being secretive in his complicated business dealings.  Upshot—it may take years to sort out everything.

—In the meantime, who gets any money?  The lawyers.  The special administrator will hire lawyers and accountants to help him.  Each family member will probably get a lawyer.  All the lawyers will charge thousands of dollars over the years to figure out where the money should go, but the lawyers will get paid first.  In addition without any estate planning, over half of Prince’s money will probably go to the government for taxes.

—Which leads to the saddest part of this mess for me.  Prince was known for his generosity in giving to many charities.  When wealthy people plan their wills, they can direct lots of money to those charities (instead of it going for taxes).  Sadly, that won’t happen in Prince’s case.



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About Colin Nelson

Colin T. Nelson worked for 40 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. He tried everything from speeding tickets to first degree murder. His writing about the courtroom and the legal system give the reader a "back door" view of what goes on, what's funny, and what's a good story. He has also traveled extensively and includes those locations in his mysteries. Some are set in Southeast Asia, Ecuador,Peru, and South Africa. Readers get a suspenseful tale while learning about new places on the planet. Colin is married, has two adult children, and plays the saxophone in various bands.

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