Experts tell PEOPLE that, in absence of a will, Prince's estate will likely be split by his nearest relatives
Prince‘s legacy will live on – but in whose hands?
In the days following the iconic musician’s death, speculation has been rampant as to who will take control of Prince’s massive estate – which is estimated to be at least $250 million – a figure that could grow by another $100 million over the next five years as demand for his music grows.
Prince, whose birth name was Prince Rogers Nelson, was preceded in death by both of his parents and only has one full biological sibling, sister Tyka Nelson. The singer also has three living half-brothers and two living half-sisters.
While Tyka seems the most likely candidate, if there is no formal will in place, all of Prince’s siblings will split the fortune, estate attorney Jeffrey P. Scott, partner at St. Paul, Minnesota, firm Jeffrey P. Scott & Associates tells PEOPLE. The Carver County Sheriff’s Office tells PEOPLE: “We do not have any wills filed at this point in time.”
“There’s statutes that will say exactly who is to take his property and in what percentages. And the first people are spouses and children,” Scott explains. Prince’s only child – with ex-wife Mayte Garcia – died a week after birth, and his second marriage to Manuela Testolini ended in 2006. Under statute 524.2-103 of Minnesota probate code, Tyka, Norrine Nelson, Omarr Baker, John R. Nelson, Alfred Jackson and Sharon L. Nelson are the eligible beneficiaries.
Prince’s fortune will come with a hefty estate tax, Scott says, which is applied to anything over $1.6 million in Minnesota, and, at the federal level, to any estate over $5.4 million. In the case, however, that Prince left everything to charity, the taxes aren’t applied.
“If he left that to charity, they could eliminate the estate tax which is a big benefit for the charities,” Scott explains, noting that in the scenario Prince’s will leaves funds to multiple beneficiaries, “If he left a portion of it to charity, that portion of it he left to charity would be subtracted off the total to determine the taxable amount.”
So what comes with being the beneficiary to a recording artist’s estate? “All the royalties would shift to the beneficiary or the heir, or whoever it is that inherits,” Scott says. “[The beneficiary] would step into his shoes, more or less, to receive all the assets outright and to receive the future royalties.”
That also means the beneficiary receives full control over Prince’s lengthy musical library – which PEOPLE confirmed includes unreleased projects.
Scott also notes that if an organization – like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, of which Prince was a member – isn’t directly named in the will, they have no claim to any of his money.
“Statutes say who is first, second and third in line if a person dies without a will,” he says. “It would not be a church, or charitable organization at all – no matter how involved a charitable organization was in their life. When people have big estates people contest all the time because there’s a lot of money involved. I would be really surprised if there weren’t objections and contests in court… I wouldn’t expect it to go without contest.” And with six siblings involved, he says, “I’d expect the [probate] to last quite some time.”
Adds attorney Kamilla Mishiyeva of New York City’s Mishiyeva Law, PLLC, who is familiar with celebrity estate planning, “The likeliness of a will contest or a claim against the estate is very likely.”
“If a will is ultimately procured, the likeliness of a contest depends on if any of his brothers or sisters are disinherited in the instrument,” she says. “With most celebrity estates, being that there is an abundance of money on the line, the named beneficiaries in a will or trust typically settle any claims early on just to move the case along.”
While the status of Prince’s will is yet unknown, attorney Mishiyeva says Tyka is a smart choice for a beneficiary.
“Being a musician herself and his blood relative, the assumption is that she will not simply follow the money, she will act in the estate’s best interests by not extending his name to causes he did not believe in just to produce an income,” she tells PEOPLE.
She notes that celebrities often don’t account for the aforementioned estate tax, something that can take a toll on loved ones.
“Tax planning is especially crucial for celebrities that are single because they cannot take advantage of the surviving spouse tax exemption,” she says. “They can however input a ‘Santa Clause’ provision in their will or trust document that directs the executor or the trustee of their estate to make a gift to a charity of their choice if it will result in the reduction of estate tax.”
Prince died last Thursday at his Paisley Park complex. Following the completion of an autopsy, his body was cremated and released to family members. A cause of death has yet to be revealed.
• Reporting by ELAINE ARADILLAS