Prince’s Estate—The Perils of Lack of Planning

by Dennison Keller

man in white shirt standing beside brown brick wall

When I turned 16, my parents threw me a Sweet 16 surprise birthday party. All of my high school friends were there, and as part of my gift bounty I received not one, but two vinyl copies of Prince’s Purple Rain album. After I put that record on the turntable; I became a life-long fan. There were other artists I liked more. I never saw Prince in concert and not all of his songs spoke to me. But through all of his hits and raunchy lyrics and myriad looks–and names, I remained in awe of his undeniable musical genius.

This was a man who cared about his craft, and was notoriously careful about the way his music was presented and who had the rights to play it. Which is why I was floored to learn that Prince Rogers Nelson died last month, apparently without a will or trust.

With no estate plan document to spell out Prince’s wishes for his property and vast music catalog, his fortune and creative output will fall to his next of kin. And the jockeying has already begun to figure out exactly whom that might be. He reportedly leaves behind a full blood sister and 5 other half-siblings. Now, a prison inmate from Colorado has filed a paternity claim asserting that he is Prince’s biological son. If he can prove the parental connection, he will inherit Prince’s assets, music and royalties.

Ironically, all of it could have been avoided had Prince spelled his wishes out in a will, or better yet a trust. With a trust, Prince could have literally exerted control from the grave, specifying how he wanted his music distributed, where he wanted his future royalties to go, what to do with his unreleased original material. In short, a trust would have yielded him the almost same control over his creative work after death that he fought so famously to preserve during his lifetime.

But you do not need to be a rich musical genius to utilize the benefits of a trust. Even for people with modest estates, a trust can be written to avoid probate, protect privacy, ensure your children receive an inheritance in a second marriage, safeguard public benefits for disabled child, and even upgrade to a private room while on nursing home Medicaid.

You may not know what it feels like occupy a musical throne like Prince, but with proper preparation, you can be the King of your own estate plan.

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