On 21 April 2016, the musical legend Prince passed away at the age of just 57, following an opioid overdose. The music world was left grieving and in a state of shock. Three years on it seems that the singer is unable to rest in peace whilst the battle over his estate continues.
Shortly after his death, it was discovered that Prince had not left a Will to deal with the administration of his estate – thought to be valued in the region of US$100 million to US$300 million.
What has followed has proved to be a complex and costly affair, with the courts of Minnesota (Prince’s home state) already having received over 2,700 court petitions on various estate administration matters.
One consequence of not having a Will (known as being intestate) is that Prince had not appointed anyone to administer his estate. The courts were tasked with appointing administrators. In the first instance, a financial institution was appointed. It was subsequently replaced by another financial institution. Already one can see that legal costs were beginning to rack up.
Another consequence of being intestate was that the courts were left to determine who should inherit Prince’s estate. Whilst it is understood that Prince left no surviving spouse or offspring, at least 45 people initially claimed to be legitimate heirs (including one would-be heir claiming to be a secret wife). It was eventually decided that Prince’s six siblings should inherit. More legal costs incurred.
Despite the courts of Minnesota resolving these matters, issues around Prince’s estate rumble on. According to reports, the appointment of the second administrator was an unpopular one and the relationship between the court appointed administrator and the beneficiaries has become increasingly strained.
It is well broadcast that there appears to be no love lost between the beneficiaries and the administrator, with claims from the beneficiaries that they have received nothing more than a small legacy to date and that the administrator is recklessly mismanaging Prince’s estate. The administrator is accused of incurring significant, and in the eyes of the beneficiaries, unnecessary costs and investing in projects that the beneficiaries consider Prince would have been completely against. The relationship has deteriorated to such an extent that the beneficiaries even went so far as filing for the second administrator to be removed – a petition that proved to be unsuccessful. And as with every petition, yet more legal costs rack up.
The administration continues, and it remains to be seen when it will be concluded and what the beneficiaries will receive, if anything. One of Prince’s siblings is understood to have said that she soon expects the estate to be bankrupt unless action is taken against the administrator.
The tale of Prince’s estate is a cautionary one. Although estate disputes can arise even where someone dies with a Will, it is clear that many significant and costly issues could have been avoided if Prince had not died intestate. He would have been able to decide who should be entrusted with administering his estate, who should benefit from it, and set out his wishes on how his estate should be managed. In this way, Prince could have had greater comfort in knowing that his estate and his legacy would be handled appropriately, and not frittered away or wasted. Instead, if reports are true, it seems that millions of dollars have been spent on expenses and legal fees much of which could have been avoided.