The Estate of the Artist Formerly Known as Prince

            Prince passed away tragically on April 21, 2016, leaving behind an estate worth upwards of $300 million.  He had no spouse and no “legitimate” children.  In fact, his only full sibling is Tyka Nelson.  On April 26, 2016, just five days after Prince was pronounced dead, Tyka Nelson filed in probate court to have Prince’s estate distributed.  Prince also was survived by five half-siblings who have claims to his estate.  According to various reports, around 700 people have come forward, claiming to be Prince’s half siblings.  Interestingly, one man is claiming to be Prince’s child.  As of the second week of May, this “illegitimate” child may have a legitimate claim to Prince’s entire estate.  Why is all of this important?  Prince died without a will.

            When someone dies without a will, their estate is distributed according to the intestacy laws of the state they died in.  Since Prince died without a will, his estate will be administered under the intestacy laws of Minnesota.  For practicality, and because I’m not licensed to practice law in Minnesota, let’s imagine that Prince passed away in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Under the North Carolina intestacy statute, when someone dies with siblings, but no spouse, descendants, or parents, their surviving siblings inherit everything.  In Prince’s situation, his full blooded sister, Tyka, and his five established half-blood siblings would divide his estate evenly.  If any of the 700 potential siblings could prove that they are Prince’s sibling, they would take an equal share of his estate, too.  Under North Carolina law, there is no distinction between relations of whole blood and those of half-blood for intestate succession purposes.

            On the other hand, if this potential love child can prove paternity, he is Prince’s only descendant.  In North Carolina, when someone dies with a child but no spouse, their child inherits everything.  Prince’s illegitimate son could legitimately inherit all of Prince’s $300 million estate.