When Prince passed away earlier this spring, we lost a truly amazing musician. His music and showmanship was groundbreaking, but so too were his ideas about the rights of recording artists. Over the years he has been in court probably more than any other musician out there, fighting for control of his work product. He even famously changed his name to an unpronounceable “love symbol” during a legal battle in the 1990s.
In more recent years, he fought a constant battle against people who attempted to upload his songs and image to the internet. He was clearly very concerned with maintaining control of his work, and power over his intellectual property, so it came as a real shock that Prince died without having an estate plan in place. How could one so familiar with the imperfect workings of our court system, and so concerned with controlling his assets, leave his legacy in the hands of the legal system?
Having an Estate Plan Allows You to Have Some Say in Your Business After Your Death
If he had taken the time to put a plan in place, he would have been able to control, to some degree, how his music and image are used going forward. Since he did not put a plan in place, those decisions will be made by whoever ends up inheriting his estate, which is said to include a large catalog of unreleased music in addition to his well-known hits.
The Default Rules Do Not Work Well for Everyone
Prince was not married, and his parents and only child died before he did, so it is not clear who will end up inheriting his estate. If no previously unknown children materialize, Prince’s estate will pass to his siblings under Minnesota law. This sounds straight-forward, but it turns out his father had numerous relationships with women across the country, so the exact number of Prince’s siblings is unknown.
In fact, so many people have come forward claiming to be members of his extended family, that the judge overseeing Prince’s estate ordered a DNA test be performed on a blood sample in case such evidence is needed to prove (or disprove) a claimed family connection in the future.
Estate Plans Provide Privacy
Prince’s estate has all the makings of a courtroom drama that will play out for years to come. If only he had put an estate plan in place, such drama would play out behind closed doors rather than in open court. That is one of the many benefits of having an estate plan that even those of us who are not millionaires can appreciate.
Should Somebody Else Have Been Making His Health Care Decisions?
As we learn more about the addiction Prince was struggling with, it is worth pondering whether he would still be with us if he had put a durable power of attorney in place to make health care decisions when he was incapacitated.