A Strong Spirit Cannot Transcend Probate or Tax Rules

Prince, His Estate, and the Impact of No Estate Plan

On April 21, 2016, the world tragically lost a brilliant musician – Prince Rogers Nelson. Prince was an innovative artist who worked tirelessly to become a master of his craft. For someone to have worked so hard to build his legacy and meticulously control every aspect of his music, it came as a shock that he passed away seemingly without a single written document expressing how he wanted his legacy handled after his death. Essentially, Prince gave carte blanch control to whomever will take over his estate.

Prince’s simple oversight is now causing a myriad of problems that may draw attention away from the incredible life he lived. There are countless individuals coming forward to claim a stake in his estate, and his estate will not likely be resolved any time soon. Moreover, his estate, valued at approximately $300 million or more, will now be responsible for both state and federal estate taxes that will total well over $100 million.

However, the monetary impact of not having an estate plan may not have troubled Prince as much as the impact it will have on his music and legacy. Without a written directive outlining what Prince wanted done with his music, especially his music that has never been released, Prince no longer has any control over what is done with his art. Rather, he ultimately relinquished control over his music to someone yet to be determined by the court. Is Prince turning over in his grave knowing his music that he worked so hard to perfect and protect is now completely out of his control? What would Prince think if the person(s) who ultimately gain control over his estate decide to allow all of Prince’s music to be streamed?

Maybe Prince thought he had more time as he was still a young man when he passed away, but unfortunately, we all now know that we are not entitled to life. On the other hand, fortunately for us, the dilemma of Prince’s estate reminds us the importance of having an estate plan in place. Prince famously stated “A strong spirit transcends rules.” While Prince undeniably has a strong spirit, it cannot transcend probate or tax laws. Regardless, no matter the final outcome of Prince’s estate, may Prince rest in peace knowing his music had a positive impact on the world, and it will continue to have a positive impact on generations to come.