Three Years Later, the Fees are Adding Up for Prince Estate

The death of Prince three years ago at age 57 added him to the long list of  celebrities who never had wills created and left their heirs monumental estate disasters. In this case, the death of Prince Rogers Nelson stands for a few other lessons – the nation’s opioid crisis, the challenges of achieving a successful police investigation and the downside of fame.

Instead of creating a foundation to manage his artistic legacy, the heirs have focused on a small army of attorneys and consultants. A steady blizzard of paperwork at the Carver County probate court hasn’t made much progress. It’s hard for anyone reading the documents that do become public because they are heavily redacted to maintain some privacy.

Battles between the six heirs may have been set aside temporarily, as they have banded together to push back against the court-appointed administrator, which has racked up a $45 million administrative bill, which includes $10 million in legal fees, according to the papers filed by heirs in the court.

A will would have reduced the 40% estate tax bill owned to the federal government and the 16% tax bill for Minnesota.

It’s not unusual for someone not to prepare a will, as many people prefer not to deal with the idea of their own death. But given the complexity and value of the estate, a will and an estate plan would have made the process of settling his estate far less public and far less expensive.

Here’s what we know now, according to the article “Prince died three years ago, his estate is still unsettled: Here’s why,” from USA Today:

Heirs: Lots of folks came out of the woodwork claiming to be kin. There are six heirs, named by a judge: Tyka Nelson, his full sister, and his half-siblings, Norrine Nelson, Sharon Nelson, John Nelson, Alfred Jackson and Omarr Baker.

Paisley Park: Estate administrators did open the white, aluminum-clad home which also served as Prince’s office and a recording studio, as a museum. Paisley Park is being run by the same company that runs Elvis Presley’s Graceland. The goal was to provide revenue for the estate to help pay for tax bills.

The Caribbean Villa: The estate put much of the land and buildings owned by Prince up for sale at his death. The prominent estate, located on Turks and Caicos, has not yet been sold. It was put on the market for $12 million, $1 million less than Prince paid for it. Next, it was put up for auction, but it was not sold.

The Digital Assets: We can’t even imagine how many emails, tweets, social media posts and other digital assets exist that were owned by Prince. It’s unlikely that the same person who did not have an estate plan would have had a plan for digital assets, but somehow today there are Facebook pages, websites and more owned by the Prince estate.

Everyone needs an estate plan, and everyone needs a digital estate plan. Your heirs may not face decades of an estate battle and a $45 million administration fee like Prince’s heirs, but a plan will protect your family and your assets.