Prince's sister said Tyka Nelson said in a court filing on Tuesday that he had no known will and asked Minnesota to “appoint a special administrator to oversee his estate,” according to the Associated Press. The news opens up the possibility of a drawn-out battle over his fortune, estimated at anything from $150 million to $800 million.
Prince, who reportedly worked 154 hours straight in the days leading up to his death, had eight brothers and sisters, and under Minnesota law, the six of them who are still alive, as his closest living relatives, would automatically share equally in his estate.
Only sister Tyka was a full sibling, and it had been assumed that she would take control of the empire; however, half-siblings have equal rights to the estate.
Prince had no living children, although he had a son who died a week after his birth. The infant died of natural causes, according to his death certificate, which named him as “Boy Gregory.” He suffered from a rare genetic disorder called Pfeiffer syndrome, according to Inquisitr.
TMZ sources say “various professionals raised the issue of a will with Prince but he never had an interest in drafting one.”
Prince kept in his possession a treasure trove of unpublished music—approximately 26 albums worth of material—that he kept hidden in a vault in the basement of his Paisley Park mansion. “I’ve vaulted so much stuff, going way back to the ’80s, because I didn’t want people to hear it—it wasn’t ready,” he told the New York Post back in 2015.
The question of how much Prince’s estate will actually be valued at will be a fascinating case study for tax professionals, as his estate must now place a value both on his catalog of work and his “right of publicity’’—which is to say the future estimated earning power of his name and image.
Tax geeks will be impatient to see how the Internal Revenue Service reacts to that valuation.
Writing on Forbes.com this morning, tax expert David J. Herzig of Valparaiso University Law School draws a parallel between the Prince and Michael Jackson estates on this matter.
In its federal estate tax return, he writes, “Jackson’s estate valued the right of publicity at just $2,105,” arguing that because Jackson’s image was so tarnished by allegations of child molestation his reputation was basically worthless.
The IRS asserted in response that the right of Jackson’s likeness was worth $434 million.
Herzig says: “The IRS will likely be primed for a fight over the value of Prince’s catalog. Currently, conservative estimates place the value of his music catalog at $300 million. But these estimates may be way off since Prince actually owned both his recording and publishing copyrights. According to the LA Times, music industry insiders say they ‘can’t imagine a catalog that would have a higher value.’
“As it has signaled in the Michael Jackson estate, the IRS may attempt to establish precedent that valuation of these assets should include a greater multiplier of future earnings.”