It is a pretty sad time for fans of music with the recent deaths of Chris Cornell, David Bowie, and Prince, among others. These are, in my opinion, some of the greatest creative minds and musical masters the world will ever see.
Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson) was 57 years old when he died last year of an accidental drug overdose. It appears that Prince had done no estate planning whatsoever.
The Inventory filed by the Personal Representative of Prince’s estate shows $25 Million in Real Estate alone. Click here to see the actual inventory filed in the Probate Court. It is likely that his combined real estate holdings will not be his most valuable assets compared to the value of his intellectual property, business interests, and catalog of 50 albums. These things will continue to generate significant revenue for many years. Much of his estate has not yet been valued, but it looks like it could be hundreds of millions of dollars. The transfer of wealth for estates of this size is usually controlled through trusts and other legal directives. From Court records to date, which are all available to the public, it appears that Prince did not have any such planning strategies in place.
With no trust in place, Prince’s estate will go through the probate process in the Minnesota court system. The appointed representatives of the estate will be left to figure out what Prince owned, value each piece of property, pay the income and estate taxes, and distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries of the estate.
Prince has one sister and five half-sisters. A Minnesota Court has declared that his estate will be distributed to these six individuals. While we can’t speculate about how Prince would have wanted his estate distributed, stories of Prince’s charitable nature during his lifetime suggest that he would have probably wanted to leave money to support charities. Stories of his private personal nature also suggest that he would have wanted to avoid such a public display and invasion of privacy.
In any event, if no will or trust turns up, Prince’s estate will be a media drama that unfolds in public.
What if Prince had not died from that drug overdose, but was instead incapacitated and unable to manage his health and financial affairs? Who would have made decisions for him about his medical care, businesses, and finances? A court, in a public guardianship proceeding, would have had to appoint a guardian or conservator. This person could have been a complete stranger to Prince.
Estate planning is not just for music icons worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It is for everyone. No matter the size of a person’s estate, a comprehensive estate plan will establish control, address incapacity, and direct the transfer assets how, to whom, and when you want.