Don’t Party Like It’s 1999: Prince’s Estate Mistake

When Prince died of a fetanyl overdose on April 21, 2016 he was only 57 years old but one of the most prominent musicians of his era.  His estate was valued at $156 million!  But even with all of that wealth, Prince made one of the most common estate planning mistakes – he didn’t have a Will!

To make matters more complicated, Prince was divorced twice and was not married when he died. He also had no children.  In his business dealings, he preferred not to work with lawyers and this may have spilled over to his estate planning.  He may have thought that without children there was no need to do any estate planning.  Or, it’s possible he just didn’t care. 

But Prince’s failure to do any estate planning was certainly a costly error.  His half-siblings fought for five years over his estate, and in the end the estate was essentially split between those half-siblings.  Because he did not leave a Will, no one knows whether Prince actually wanted those half-siblings to inherit his estate.

Another issue: by not leaving a Will, Prince failed to name a Personal Representative (i.e., executor or administrator) over his affairs.  As a result, the probate court appointed two different banks to serve.  Once the estate was settled, those entities had charged more than $3 million to the estate!  

Prince had other complicated assets that probably made him a good candidate for a Trust, but the lesson here is that a Will or other estate planning document would have avoided years of litigation that ultimately cost the estate at least $3 million and may have resulted in Prince’s estate going to individuals he never intended.  We’ll never know.

Articles relied on for this post:

CNN Article 

Forbes Article

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