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Prince’s Family Engaged in Difficult Estate Fight

We have often written about the importance of putting a will and other estate documents in writing, and about how doing so not only solidifies your wishes, but can avoid costly and contentious litigation between family members. It just so happens that the unfortunate passing of the music icon Prince is now revealing that there may be some dispute over his estate that may have been caused by the lack of proper estate documents.

Lack of Will Causes Problems

It appears that Prince left no will. This has meant that his sizeable estate has been left to the court to administer. One of the initial hurdles was that there may have been heirs or relatives that were currently unknown or unidentified. As such, the court put out notice, and waited to see if anybody would step forward to claim a part of the estate.

Nobody new stepped forward, but as you can imagine, this could have been a messy process. Anybody stepping forth as an heir would need to prove this—and known family members who stand to lose a portion of the inheritance to any newfound relatives would have had the right to challenge those relatives’ claims.

Assets at Issue

Next comes the business of determining what the estate consists of, and who gets it. For those with many assets, this can be a big burden. For Prince’s family, at issue are a vault of unreleased songs, as well as non-tangible intellectual property. Items like Prince’s brand, his namesake, and his image all have value, and someone will be entitled to partake in the royalties and continuing proceeds that come from use and licensing of those assets.

The tangible items may be more difficult. Royalties in the form of money can be divided amongst many family members in percentages, but how do you divide a guitar, or a concert outfit, or other physical items?

Then there are issues as to how the assets will be treated once they are divided up. For example, a family member may be left with the rights to unpublished songs. But nobody knows if Prince ever wanted the songs distributed. An heir may be left with the rights to long existing songs, but there’s no way to know, for example, if Prince would have wanted that music used as a movie score, or placed on iTunes.

A court will now have to make those determinations on testimony and evidence—and even then, it may remain undetermined.

New Claimants Emerge

Making matters more difficult, a man is now claiming that he had a verbal agreement with Prince providing the intellectual property to some of the music to him. That claim is worth close to $1 billion. He will now have his own claim, and Prince’s family members will have to deal not only with dividing up assets amongst themselves, but with fighting this new claimant.

Don’t leave your assets to a court to divide, and make sure your desires are honored. Protect your family from undue fighting in a time of hardship. Contact Tampa business, asset and probate attorney David Toback to discuss a comprehensive estate plan.

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