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Since Prince Died Without a Will, What Happens to His Estate?

While the world is still reeling from the sudden and tragic death of musical and cultural icon Prince last month, because he may have died without a will, the fate of his massive estate has become a source of great controversy.

How Prince Died Without a Will

According to a Chicago Tribune article, Prince was not in the minority as far as not having a will, seeing as 55 percent of adults in the US do not have an estate plan. Still, in addition to his legendary work as a musician, Prince is said to have been a brilliant businessman, which begs the question, how did he have a fortune totaling around $250 million at the time of his death and not have an estate plan?

In 2014, Prince gained control of his music and copyrights related to his work and used that as leverage to hammer out a new deal with Warner Brothers. As a result, his estate will reportedly collect royalties in the neighborhood of $100 million over the coming years.

Due to his confidence in his business savvy, Prince rarely sought the counsel of attorneys, preferring to handle negotiations himself. While this strategy served him well in life, enabling him to make deals with concert promoters, digital music providers and record studios as well as remove his music from YouTube, it has not done him or his surviving relatives any favors since his death. Ironically, attorneys, who he shunned in life, could be the very ones who benefit most from his lack of an estate plan, as his sister and half-siblings battle over his fortune.

What Happens to Prince’s Estate Since He Died Without a Will?

Without a will or estate plan, the fate of Prince’s estate, including his vault of unrecorded music, which is said to hold enough songs for a new Prince album to be released every year for the next century, will be decided by the court system and the intestate laws of his state of residence, Minnesota.

The Tribune article cited American Bar Association data that shows that the estates of those who die without a will usually end up in probate court, which costs Americans as much as $2 billion annually, including $1.5 billion in attorney fees. In the case of Prince’s estate, reportedly, in addition to attorney fees, Minnesota as well as the federal government will collect estate taxes. This is unfortunate for his heirs as well as any charities Prince may have wished to leave money to, because an estate plan that includes charitable giving can minimize estate taxes in many cases.

Hopefully, people will learn from the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Prince’s estate and his lack of a will and think about their own situations.

At MacDonald, Lee & Senechalle, Ltd, our Des Plaines and Hoffman Estates attorneys have been assisting individuals and families in Chicago and its surrounding areas with trust administration, estate planning and probate issues.

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