It is almost unimaginable that an artist like Prince, who probably had numerous lawyers, accountants and business managers advising him over the years, who went to great lengths to preserve and protect his music collection, and whose estate is likely worth hundreds of millions of dollars, neglected to plan for the inevitably of death. Yet, if his sister, Tyka Nelson, is correct, the music icon may have died without a will or other testamentary documents in place. Yesterday, Ms. Nelson filed to open a probate case and requested that a special administrator be assigned to it.
Having died without a spouse or children, without a will, it's likely that Prince's estate (which some are estimating at $300 million) would be passed on to Prince's siblings. However, the lack of planning means that the estate would first be subjected to hefty estate taxes - 40% Federal and 16% Minnesota. (Translation: Roughly half of the estate could go to the government.)
Of course, this is all speculation. We will have to wait and see if Prince's legal team concurs with Ms. Nelson's claim or provides evidence to the contrary.
Making the situation even messier, Prince is rumored to have a "treasure trove" of unreleased material. How would Prince, a man who was known for fiercely guarding his music catalog, have wanted such materials released, if he would have wanted them released at all? Moreover, who would he have wanted to benefit from their release and/or sale? Sadly, we may never know what the legendary "Purple Rain" singer/songwriter wanted. Cases like this underscore the importance of making decisions before it's too late. They also remind us that even some of the most brilliant and successful musicians of our time, with access to the best advisors, can delay and fail to plan.