When Doves Cry

By May 17, 2016 October 25th, 2018 Estate Planning Blog, Robert Lamm
Robert J. Lamm

Robert J. Lamm

For those of you who have not heard, the artist formerly known as the “Artist Formerly Known as Prince” passed away recently. Apparently, the talented musician had a lot of money.  Some estimates are as high as $300 million. The one thing that he did not have is an estate plan. People ask me all the time, “Why do I need an estate plan?” This sad tale is an instructive lesson. See below.

Thus far, no will has been found. Prince’s parents are deceased and his closest surviving relatives are six siblings. Under the laws of intestate succession (legal speak for when one dies without a will), the siblings will split the estate equally.  If this is what Prince wanted to happen, no harm no foul. But………..there is a new development.   Carlos Q. Williams, a 39 year old inmate in federal prison, claims that he is Prince’s son and the sole heir. (see CNN article here). If this is true, and no other federal inmates come forward claiming to be Prince’s progeny, he wins.  Carlos gets everything.

But wait, there’s more.  Per CNN, “In an unlikely twist to the probate proceedings, documents filed in the Carver County District Court last week allege that Prince owed Rodney Herachio Dixon $1 billion, and Dixon is claiming that he is the sole owner of all of the musician’s intellectual property. Dixon claims he and Prince made a verbal agreement to this effect, which was entered into a Los Angeles court in 1994 or 1995. In particular, the intellectual properties included but not limited to music copyrights outside and inside the vault that are alleged to be solely owned and controlled by Prince Rogers Nelson at time of death are not solely owned and controlled by Prince Rogers Nelson at his time of death,” per a declaration submitted to the court. (see CNN article here).

So, in addition to trying to decide who is the real heir or heirs, the probate judge in Minnesota will have to sort out various creditor claims which may or may not wipe out the entire estate.  This is probably not what Prince had in mind and I have not even started to talk about attorney fees yet. To add insult to injury, after fees, administration expenses, and debts of the estate, the federal government will confiscate 40% of what is left of the estate over $5.45 million. The State of Minnesota also believes in wealth redistribution as it is one of the few states that still has its own separate estate tax.

Multiple siblings, criminals claiming to be the sole heir, contract disputes, creditor’s claims, ambulance chasing attorneys, the IRS, and no estate plan to sort this mess out. This is what it sounds like when doves cry, or in Prince’s case, vultures.