Estate planning is critical for everyone – wealthy or not. In 2016, the world was shocked to learn about the untimely death of legendary singer and songwriter Prince. The artist will always be known for his talent as a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and creative visionary. However, Prince will also be regarded as an artist who had a contentious relationship with the music establishment. Prince often battled the music industry for rights and control over his music and went to great lengths to do so.
Unfortunately, Prince died without a will, and the rights to his name and likeness he fought so hard for were subject to a multi-million dollar estate battle. Prince passed in 2016, and his estate was finally settled in 2022, making the ordeal a whopping six years of legal battles. Here are the top royal mistakes that led to such a contentious and lengthy probate process.
Prince Died Without a Will
The key to most of the Prince estate’s problems is that Prince died without a will. No one will know exactly why Prince never created a will. Whether he couldn’t get himself to face his mortality or estate planning wasn’t on his priority list, the absence of a will left his many relatives to battle it out legally. Although most of us don’t have close to the amount of assets Prince’s estate had, it makes estate planning all the more important (we can’t afford to waste the estate on drawn out legal fights!).
A will (or a trust if you prefer) establishes how you want your assets distributed, to whom those assets should be distributed to, and the appointment of a guardian for minor children. Because Prince passed without a will, the state used its default statutes to determine who would inherit his property and how much each heir would get.
Prince Did Not Appoint An Executor
Because Prince did not have a will, he could not choose an individual to serve as executor of his estate (an estate planning essential). The executor, sometimes known as the administrator, is frequently the person who holds the key to figuring out when and how the estate is split and distributed. The function of the executor is crucial in any estate. The executor gathers assets, selects professionals to handle specialized areas such as taxes and valuation, and eventually distributes the remaining assets.
One of Prince’s siblings filed a petition with the court to have the bank Bremer Trust appointed as executor, and they successfully got the other potential heirs to agree with the motion. As a result, Bremer Trust was eventually appointed. However, the list of possible heirs was lengthy, and some people claimed they had a connection to the deceased that gave them the right to inherit parts of the estate. In other words, it wasn’t clear which folks were heirs who should have a say. This caused the executor appointment process to become delayed.
Prince’s Family Dynamics Were Not Taken Into Account
Several factors complicate the Prince estate’s legal battles, one being a complex family dynamic. Prince was unmarried at the time of his death and twice divorced. He had no offspring but did have many siblings, both full and half-blood. At the time of Prince’s death, two of his siblings pre-deceased him, and one had a child. These family members (and more) claimed to have a stake in Prince’s estate. As a result, the beneficiaries will likely get more than Prince would have allocated had he drafted a will, and some would have gotten less (or perhaps nothing).
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