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Probate court for Prince’s siblings

Prince’s siblings are now in probate court seeking to resolve what happens with everything

Probate court will decide who gets what from Prince’s estate; more money means greater problems for his siblings

The death of music icon Prince shocked many. Even more shocking, if true, is the possibility that he died without a will. Prince’s siblings in probate court are now seeking to resolve what happens with everything from his Paisley Park estate, to his extensive music catalogue of both released and unreleased music.

ComptonHerald.com | Joe Richardson

“Legal Learning” is commentary by Joe Richardson, Esq. The column does not constitute legal advice, as individual cases turn on their particular facts.

A will carries out the wishes of a person regarding any assets that may exist following the person’s death. In a best case scenario, a person prepares both a will and a living trust. The will describes the person’s wishes, and the trust ensures that they are carried out by a successor trustee without going to probate court (assuming the assets are over the probate threshold).

Probate court happens to confirm the absence of a will, or to validate someone’s will (or wills) if contested by a potential heir. Usually, probate deals with assets in the deceased’s name (that don’t clearly go to a surviving spouse), assets not in a living trust, or assets not registered in someone’s name (like jewelry).

We have seen questions with wills play out with the death of celebrities, proving the saying “more money, more problems.”

Michael Jackson was apparently so isolated from his family that his mother came to question the will advanced by his lawyers after his death.

As to Bobbi Kristina Brown, a key consideration was the status of her beau Nick Gordon, as he would stand to inherit all that belonged to Bobbi if they were married.

Dad Bobby Brown’s attorney revealed the two never legally wed. To her credit, Whitney Houston’s will provided clear instructions regarding her daughter Bobbi Kristina, and delayed some of what she would ultimately inherit.  Bobbi Kristina died before reaching the age threshold to obtain her mom’s entire fortune (much of which existed from record sales following her death).

Prince’s case is complicated because, if there is no will, the law of intestate succession applies.  Generally, assets not otherwise willed to beneficiaries go first to a spouse, then to children (if no spouse), and then to parents (if no spouse or children). If there is no spouse, children or parents, assets go to siblings.  Prince has a half dozen siblings (both half and full), at least some of which were not in touch or close with Prince. Therefore, contention would not be a surprise.

In each case above, the combination of significant assets, lack of instructions, and/or family estrangement lends to the drama. Family members fight for position when there is no will (Prince, if true), contest an existing will (Jackson), or seek to clear the record on relationship status (Brown).

Superstar artists often have income streams that improve following death.  This underscores the importance of clear instructions, particularly when celebrity status makes trusting relationships difficult.

Joe Richardson, Esq. is a native son of South-Central Los Angeles, and an attorney practicing tort, contract, and labor, and employment law in Southern California for more than 15 years. He also teaches and speaks on legal issues.

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