Prince Dies Without A Will & Without Any Known Children
When the news of Prince’s death broke, one of the first things that popped into my mind was that it will be really interesting to see what sort of estate plan he has in place. While this may sound a bit callous, it is in fact a testament to my admiration for him as a musician and trail-blazer in the world of music law.
Prince was no stranger to the legal system. You may remember back in the 1990s he actually changed his name to an unpronounceable “love symbol” while he was involved with a legal dispute with Warner Brothers over the rights to his music. He was also well known in the legal world for filing lawsuits against people who uploaded his music or image to the internet without his permission.
As someone who was obviously very concerned about his musical legacy and the preservation of his image and intellectual property, I was expecting that he would have created an elaborate plan detailing how his music and image were to be used after his death. I was expecting him to set new standards, and break new legal ground. Instead, it has been revealed that he died without a will.
If he had put an estate plan in place, he would have been able to dictate, to some degree, how his image and music (both his extensive catalog of hits and the rumored vault of unreleased songs) could be used. Without an estate plan, important decisions about his music and other assets will fall to whoever inherits his estate.
Right now, it is not clear who that person or group of people will be. Prince was not married at the time of his death, both of his parents are dead, and his only known child died only a week after it was born. If no previously unknown children materialize, Minnesota law says that his siblings will be his heirs.
And that’s where things get even more interesting. Alleged children are coming out of the woodwork. Some are claiming to be Prince’s children, some are claiming to be the children of Prince’s father, and some are claiming Prince himself was not actually fathered by the man he was led to believe was his father.
In order to process this mess, the judge overseeing the case has ordered a DNA test of Prince’s blood, and approved a plan put in place by the temporary estate manager that requires people claiming they are related to Prince to submit their own DNA for testing. The judge has also approved a September cut-off date for people to make claims.
Through my work as a family lawyer I have seen both sides of the DNA testing story. I have seen relief when paternity is established, and I have seen families torn apart when a test shows your close family members are not actually related. It will be really interesting to see how Prince’s estate is finally divided up, particularly if people who for their entire life assumed that Prince was their father or half-brother turn out not to be related to him at all in the eyes of the law.