A Cautionary Tale: Prince Dies Intestate?

April 27, 2016 Suzana Popovic-Montag Estate Planning Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

The unexpected and shocking death of Prince last week has sent the media abuzz as they speculate about the potential cause of death. However, as the dust begins to settle, speculation has turned to the other big question: Who will inherit his vast estate valued anywhere from an estimated $150-300 million?

On Tuesday, Prince’s sister filed paperwork in Minnesota (where Prince resided and died) asking the court to appoint a special administrator to oversee his estate. This step was necessary because it appears that despite his fortune, Prince did not have a known will and therefore, may have died intestate.

Of course, it is still possible for a will to emerge after further investigations are undertaken. Some are speculating that a trust or series of trusts may have been established to avoid the public scrutiny that would have been involved in probating a will. Trusts are commonly used vehicles for celebrities who wish to maintain some semblance of privacy after death.

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However, if there was no estate plan in place, Prince’s estate will be devolved in accordance with the Minnesota laws of intestacy. Prince was not married, had no children, and was predeceased by his parents. He was survived by two ex-wives, his full biological sister and five half-siblings. Under Minnesota law, ex-wives do not qualify under intestacy rules and half siblings are treated the same as full siblings. Accordingly, Prince’s six surviving siblings stand to potentially inherit a significant fortune.

As an additional concern, there are often claims made against an estate of this magnitude, some valid and some not. Unfortunately, the absence of any testamentary document to support Prince’s actual intentions may only exacerbate and encourage this effect. These types of claims can vary significantly from dependant’s support to creditors’ claims.

The laws of intestacy seldom reflect the true intentions of a testator and can lead to many potentially avoidable complications. For instance, family dynamics are becoming increasingly complex with the prevalence of common-law spouses and blended families, just to name a few examples. As a result, while intestacy rules aim to distribute an estate among those the law presumes to be closest to you and to whom you may owe support, the practical effect is that this desired result is rarely achieved.

Thank you for reading.

Suzana Popovic-Montag

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