Prince left no will to vast estate, sister tells court

Prince's death and lack of a will has caused confusion over who will inherit his vast fortune.
US musician Prince performs at the Hop Farm Festival near Paddock Wood, southern England on July 3, 2011.
US musician Prince performs at the Hop Farm Festival near Paddock Wood, southern England on July 3, 2011.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) – Prince’s sister said on Tuesday (April 26) that the pop icon left behind no will as she sought an administrator to oversee one of the most legendary estates in the music world. 

The court filing by sister Tyka Nelson showed a desire for an orderly process after the sudden death of Prince, who was estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars and kept vaults with an untold number of unreleased songs. 

Nelson, in a petition to a court in Carver County, Minnesota in the suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul, said that Prince was survived by no spouse, children or parents.  She is his only surviving full sibling, but there are five surviving half-siblings who were all listed as heirs. 

“I do not know of the existence of a will and have no reason to believe that the decedent executed testamentary documents in any form,” she wrote. 

Prince died on April 21 at age 57 at his Paisley Park studio complex in the suburb of Chanhassen, a week after brushing off an illness as the flu.  Authorities conducted an autopsy before his private cremation on Saturday (April 23) but they are not expected to release the results for several weeks. 

Nelson – herself a singer, but far less prominent than her brother – asked the court to appoint wealth management firm Bremer Trust to administer the estate.  The filing said that the trust’s parent company Bremer Bank has provided financial services to Prince for “a number of years.”

Nelson also said that a search was underway to determine if Prince had other heirs.  The Purple One was married twice, but both marriages ended in divorce. A son born into one marriage died days later due to a rare genetic disorder known as Pfeiffer syndrome. 

Control over Paisley Park will not just mean money. Prince was legendary for his energy in the studio and left vaults full of unreleased music.  He was cryptic during his life on whether he wanted the music to come out, with his associates and fans divided on whether posthumous releases would honour his wishes. 

The size of his fortune is not clear. His sister’s filing said he had “substantial assets” that needed immediate supervision but said the values were unknown.  Celebrity Net Worth, a website that looks at the finances of famous people, said that Prince was worth US$300 million (S$406 million), although estimates range widely. 

Prince was at his commercial zenith in the 1980s, with the soundtrack to his 1984 film “Purple Rain” often considered one of the greatest albums ever made.  He only appeared once on Forbes magazine’s annual list of its 100 most powerful celebrities since its launch in 1999. 

His listing came in 2005, when Forbes estimated that Prince – legendary for his stamina in concert – earned US$49.7 million the previous year when he sold 1.4 million tickets on his “Musicology” tour.  Besides his Paisley Park estate, where Prince kept a state-of-the-art studio and would hold dance parties, Prince is believed to have owned a number of properties in Minnesota – some surprisingly modest. 

Prince had bought a lavish home near Marbella, Spain for his first wife Mayte Garcia – a dancer who is best known to fans as the subject of his song “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” – but one of them sold it after their divorce. 

The property, which overlooks the Mediterranean and came with its own private beauty salon and music studio, is back on the market for 5.25 million euros ($5.93 million). 

Since Prince’s death, three of his albums – two greatest hits collections and “Purple Rain” – have stormed back to the top 10 of the US charts.  Tracking service Nielsen Music said that his songs were downloaded a massive 2.82 million times between April 15 and April 24 – a figure that is likely so large because Prince boycotted all streaming services except Jay-Z’s Tidal and aggressively took down unlicensed material from the Internet.