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Prince's presumed heirs in court just days after his death

Virtually no Philadelphia resident is unaware of the life and career of mega-star Prince. The musician recently passed away, and it appears that he may have had no estate plan in place to outline his wishes. His siblings (who are also his likely heirs) have filed court documents asking that a special administrator be assigned to the star's estate, which is the first steps in what is expected to be a long and arduous legal journey.

Prince was not only known for his musical talent; he was also among the earliest artists to demand the rights to his own artistic efforts. He battled with his record label for years, and felt strongly that holding the rights to his music was imperative. Ironically, if Prince did not create a solid estate plan, the rights to his life's work could become the center of a lengthy and expensive legal battle.

Because Prince was unmarried and had no children, the closest relatives he had were his siblings and half-siblings. If a will does not surface, the laws of the artist's state of residence will dictate how his assets will be distributed. Infighting among family members is not the only concern in this case, however. The more brutal battle is likely to be between the estate administrators and the Internal Revenue Service.

If Prince did not have an estate plan, the government could lay claim to a substantial portion of the musician's output. In addition to his vast catalog of music, it is believed that the artist owned a trove of unpublished music, which could hold incredible value. In order to determine the proper value of that unpublished work, the IRS and the estate administration must agree to a number. If the ongoing estate planning saga surrounding Michael Jackson's estate is any example, establishing a value could be a long and difficult road for all involved.

As many people in Philadelphia continue to mourn the loss of one of our nation's greatest performers, Prince's family is likely gearing up for a legal fight. Even if all six sibling and half-sibling heirs agree on how to divide their share of the estate, they will have to decide whether the estimated value of their loved one's work is fair and accurate. That could turn into years of legal wrangling.

Source: CNBC, "Prince's apparent lack of planning may cost his estate", Kelley Holland, April 26, 2016

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