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Prince estate fight not limited to Diamonds and Pearls

The renowned performer Prince died without leaving a will. The battle among heirs and others is ongoing in Minnesota but has estate planning lessons for Michigan families who want their wishes and legacies preserved after they die.

The performer had an estate with an estimated pre-tax value $100 to $300 million which is being supervised by many people, including some who were not selected by Prince. A sister, five half siblings and several other heirs are filing legal challenges and considering a wrongful death lawsuit. None of these relatives are close.

Estate complications include the discovery of a staggering amount of unreleased music and videos in a basement vault at his flamboyant Paisley Park home. Mold and water damage required their transfer to Los Angeles. Estate officials must also determine how and when the albums should be circulated or released at all.

There has been criticism of some of the estate's merchandising decisions. The estate entered a licensing deal with the Minnesota Twins for Prince-related merchandise and it will host a Prince night on his June 7 birthday.

It allowed Justin Timberlake to lease Paisley Park for a pre-Super Bowl party that allowed cellphones, despite Prince's prohibition. Liquor was permitted at this event against its standard rental agreement. Some fans also objected to a visible projection of a vintage Prince performance during the Super Bowl half-time show that the estate licensed.

It is still unknown whether the estate can settle these and other merchandising and legacy matters. Many are fearful that his home will become Minnesota's version of Graceland open to tourists.

In April, six heirs also filed a motion challenging a potential entertainment transaction that they claim would be an embarrassment to the performer's legacy. Three half siblings filed a petition challenging the estate administrator's allegedly high legal fees which could bankrupt the estate. Former colleagues are also concerned that the estate will not have substantial funds to continue the performer's philanthropy.

Without proper documents and instructions, a person's family and heirs may face conflict and even overturn that person's wishes. An attorney can help assure that these wishes are legally carried out.

Source: The Washington Post, "What would Prince want? Two years later, his estate is a mess and his legacy unclear," By Karen Heller, April 18, 2018

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