When Doves Cry… and Siblings Feud April 27, 2016

By Steven P. Larson

Yesterday, it came to light that Prince may not have prepared a will prior to his untimely death last week when Prince’s sister filed a notice with the probate court stating that to her knowledge her brother never had a will.  She also provided a list of Prince’s siblings and half-siblings as potential beneficiaries to his estate.

During Prince’s music career, he frequently sparred with record labels over his artistic freedom and ownership of his music publishing rights.  Most people remember when he changed his name from Prince to an unpronounceable glyph during a dispute with his label, becoming known as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.”  He was even quoted as saying, “If you don’t own your masters, your master owns you.”

Prince carefully controlled his music, his art, and his image.  However, his possible lack of estate planning may take that control and put it in the hands of multiple siblings, who may or may not agree with how his massive library and unreleased recordings should be handled.  It is likely that Prince’s estate and his music will be subject to lengthy and expensive litigation over the next several years.

Moreover, it appears that Prince may have also overlooked planning for Federal and Minnesota estate taxes.  Without getting into the weeds, there are multiple estate planning strategies that could have helped Prince reduce his estate tax bill from an estimated $150 million+ and provided his estate liquidity to pay the bill.

Most of us will never come close to having a complex estate the size of Prince’s, but there are important planning issues that should be discussed with an estate planning attorney regardless of whether you own a Little Red Corvette or Diamonds and Pearls.

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