Musician-extraordinaire Prince (aka Prince Rogers Nelson) died last week without a Last Will & Testament (much less a trust). His sister, Tyka Nelson, petitioned a Carver County, Minnesota court this week to appoint Bremer Bank as Special Administrator of his estate.
In the wake of its appointment, Bremer Trust immediately drilled open the now-legendary “vault” that contains Prince’s unreleased recordings, which from many accounts contains a treasure trove of music that fans would be happy to pay up to hear for decades to come. So who owns all of this, with an estimated value of $250-500 million?
Prince had no spouse, no children (that we presently know of) and no surviving parents. Under Minnesota law his intestate heirs at law are his siblings. So what’s the big deal? The probate fees that Bremer Trust will collect from administering this estate will likely be in the tens of millions of dollars. The administration of this complex estate will take years, if not decades. The management of Prince’s music catalog and other assets will all be subject to the approval of an army of lawyers, consultants and a judge, few of whom understand the music industry.
Prince could have avoided all of these problems by drafting a will and a trust. For an artist who was obsessed with details, he has lost the opportunity to control his artistic destiny which will now be in the hands of bankers and lawyers. He could have personally chosen a trustee who’s judgment he trusted. He could have left his estate to beneficiaries of his choice. He could have made charitable gifts. He could have done so much and yet, did nothing.
This is not uncommon. Statistics repeatedly show that 65% of Americans have done no estate planning of any kind. Prince was still relatively young. Maybe he thought he had more time. Maybe he couldn’t bear to think about his own mortality. Maybe he didn’t know what the consequences of inaction were. Maybe he just didn’t care because he’d be dead.