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Prince Estate Raises Questions About Intestacy Laws

The recent death of Prince Rogers Nelson sparked a great deal of interest in estate planning circles when it became known that the famous musician, commonly known by just his first name of “Prince,” apparently did not leave a last will and testament. Nelson was also unmarried and had no surviving children at the time of his death. This has led to concerns that his siblings—and perhaps individuals claiming to be his siblings—will fight over the final disposal of Nelson’s sizable estate in a Minnesota probate court.

What Happens When You Die Without a Will?

In legal terms, a person who dies without a will is said to die intestate. When this happens, the probate law of the state where the estate is opened—generally the residence of the deceased—dictates the order of inheritance. For example, under California’s intestacy law, if a person dies without a spouse, child, or surviving parent, his entire estate would be equally divided among his siblings.

Minnesota’s intestacy law works much the same way. In the case of the Nelson estate, the New York Times reported there are at least six siblings or half-siblings who are “possible heirs” of the estate. At least one other woman has also filed an appearance with the Minnesota probate court also claiming to be a half-sibling, according to the Times.

Who Takes Charge of the Estate?

But before a probate court can settle inheritance with respect to an intestate estate, a judge must first appoint a special administrator to manage the decedent’s assets. A person who leaves a will can appoint his or her own personal representative. In the absence of a will, there may be disagreements among heirs and relatives over who should be in charge.

In the Nelson case, the probate court in Minnesota has designated a bank to temporarily oversee the estate, which is believed to contain more than $30 million in real estate and another $50 million in intellectual property rights related to the Prince music catalog. The exact size of the estate is unknown, however, and it will be the special administrator’s job to locate all of Nelson’s assets and prepare an inventory for the court and the potential heirs. A proper valuation of the estate is also necessary to determine the estate’s liability under the federal estate tax.

Do Not Surrender Control of Your Estate

It may seem inconceivable that a successful musician and businessman like Prince would fail to take even the most basic estate planning step of preparing a will. But many people wait until it is too late. A will does not have to be complicated. At its most basic, a will is a statement of who you want to handle your affairs and how your assets should be distributed after your death. An experienced San Diego estate planning attorney can assist you with preparing a will, trust, and other related documents. Contact the Law Office of Scott C. Soady if you would like to speak with an estate planning lawyer today.

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