When Heirs Cry: The Impact of Prince Dying Without a Will

By Chris Tymchuck
Founding Attorney

Q: Do I need a will?

Minnesota’s unique estate law headline case of recent years –if not of all time –involves the administration of the estate of the late artist, Prince.

For many, Prince was a living legend in the music industry. However, after his untimely death in 2016 from an accidental overdose of painkillers, he became the poster child for why you need estate planning in Minnesota.

The late pop superstar amassed a fortune “estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars” but apparently died leaving will. This set the stage for parentage and probate laws to be challenged by many would-be heirs seeking their share of the fortune by claiming to be Prince’s siblings and half siblings.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision that in accordance with Minnesota parentage laws, Prince’s parents were his mother Mattie Shaw and her husband at the time of Prince’s birth, John L. Nelson. Notice the court determined that parentage is based on marriage, not genetics—a law many people today might be surprised to learn of or find antiquated.

Further, the court ruled that “because John Nelson was Prince’s ‘presumptive father’ under state parentage laws, he was also Prince’s ‘genetic father’ under state probate laws”. The impact of that decision is that Prince’s estate must pass to the descendants of John Nelson and Mattie Shaw.

Accordingly, the court ruled that five would-be heirs who claimed to be Prince’s half-siblings through either of two other men – – but not John Nelson – – we’re not entitled to share in the estate. The parade of would-be heirs continues.

You don’t have to be a multi-millionaire pop star to need an estate plan.

Facing your mortality is never easy, but everyone can benefit from having one. Wouldn’t you want the peace of mind that comes from knowing your affairs are in order, your end-of-life decisions and wishes are recorded, and your loved ones will be protected after you’re gone?

If you need an initial estate plan, or already have one and would like to modify it, Unique Estate Law can help you. Contact the office today for a free 15-minute consultation.

From our offices in Bloomington and Minneapolis, we serve the estate planning needs of clients throughout Minnesota, including in Minneapolis, Edina, Bloomington, St. Louis Park, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Wayzata, Maple Grove, St. Paul, and Brooklyn Park.

About the Author
As a Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate attorney I help build and protect families through the adoption, estate planning, and probate processes. I also have experience working with families on issues related to their small businesses. I know how difficult it is to find time to plan for the future and I am here to help walk you through it.