Yet Another Article About Prince. But This One’s Different (I Promise).
Prince's lack of advanced planning has led to infighting between his legal heirs on issues ranging from appointment of an executor to suing a previously appointed executor for breach of fiduciary duties.
- Prince passed away last year without a will, so his estate is going through the Minnesota probate process.
- The court has had to deal with many complex issues including determining the legendary musician's legal heirs.
- The lack of planning by Prince has led to infighting between his legal heirs on various, wide-ranging issues.
Since Prince’s death last year, his estate has been mired in dysfunction and conflict. Prince, whose estate is estimated to be worth around $300 million before taxes, died without a will which means his complex estate has been going through the Minnesota probate process. The size and complexity of the estate has made this an especially difficult case for the court to adjudicate. Shortly after his death was announced, hundreds of individuals began coming out of the woodwork claiming they were somehow related to the legendary musician. The claims ranged from long lost cousin to biological children and even claims of adoption by Prince. Obviously this made the process even more difficult because the court first had to determine who was legally entitled to be an heir to Prince’s vast estate. The court ultimately determined that he had six legal heirs, including his sister and five half-siblings. Of course, the dysfunction did not stop there, as each heir is now angling to maximize their share of the estate.
This has manifested itself in many ways like the inability to come to a consensus on an individual to serve as executor of the estate and a recent lawsuit that was brought by two of Prince’s half-brothers. The lawsuit claims that the Bremer Trust, which had been appointed as the temporary executor of the estate, breached its fiduciary duty by hiring a small unknown promotion company for the Prince tribute concert last year without disclosing that one of Bremer’s advisors loaned the production company $2 million to pay the estate to secure the rights to promote the show. The beneficiaries are seeking damages because they claim that the hiring, and subsequent withdrawal of the promotion company, took funds from the estate that they otherwise would have inherited.
The saga of Prince’s estate is far from over and it will be interesting to see how the court handles all the complex assets it possesses as well as the constant discord and infighting amongst the beneficiaries.
A majority of these issues could have been avoided had Prince simply executed a will. If he had gone a step further and created a comprehensive living trust-based estate plan, the court would not be deciding how and to whom his estate is being distributed.
Apparently, Prince believed along with many of his devoted followers, that he was an immortal god sent to earth to create legendary music and fashion. Obviously I’m kidding, kind of; but if Prince had taken the time to plan what would happen with his assets after his death, there would be no complicated court process or fierce battle to become a beneficiary. He could have ensured that his assets were distributed according to his wishes and would have avoided the probate process which allows the public and media access to records of the contents of his estate as well as the division and distribution of his assets.
The need for advanced planning applies to everyone; even if you’re net worth is far below $300 million. A comprehensive estate plan allows you to find the proper balance of protection and control of your assets during and after your life. Having a plan allows you to determine how your assets are distributed and minimizes the risk of infighting or discord about who gets what, because you have clearly stated your wishes. It also allows you to avoid probate which can be time consuming and costly and instead allows your estate to be administered on your terms and not the probate court’s terms.
Don't leave your assets to your beneficiaries without a plan like Prince. Schedule a strategy session and get planning today.
Joshua Rogers is a co-founding principal of Schlau|Rogers and an estate and business planning lawyer practicing in Orange, San Diego, Los Angeles and Riverside counties. He is an avid Lakers fan, blogger, aspiring scuba diver, and takes pride in helping others reach their goals.
At Schlau|Rogers, we do more than just estate and business planning, probate and trust administration. Our objective is to provide individually-tailored plans that allow you the opportunity to reach your goals, all while minimizing headaches and risk, and maximizing peace of mind.
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