Prince's 'half-sister' claims she is entitled to part of his estate

The late musician Prince performing in Abu Dhabi in 2010. He died leaving no will.
The late musician Prince performing in Abu Dhabi in 2010. He died leaving no will.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • A woman claiming to be Prince's half-sister has come forward saying she is entitled to part of the late pop star's multi-million- dollar estate, legal documents show.

Ms Darcell Gresham Johnston filed court documents last Friday in the musician's probate case in Minnesota saying she is an "interested party and beneficiary" in the singer's estate.

The Purple Rain star died leaving no will and had no children or living parents.

The estate was previously expected to be equally split six ways between Prince's known surviving siblings under Minnesota law.

The musician's sister Tyka Nelson - his only known full sibling - was named an heir last month along with five of his living half-siblings, John Nelson, Norrine Nelson, Sharon Nelson, Alfred Jackson and Omarr Baker.

Some of Prince's siblings learnt of Ms Johnston's existence only several days ago, celebrity news website TMZ reported, adding that she claims to share a mother with the singer. The court will have the final say over the legitimacy of her claim.

Ms Tyka Nelson and four of Prince's half-siblings met in court on Monday for a hearing about the estate. It confirmed Bremer Trust as a special administrator, tasked with managing Prince's estate as well as determining whether there are additional heirs.

All, except his half-brother John Nelson, have signed an agreement with the bank. John Nelson did not appear in court on Monday.

One of his generation's most prolific musicians, Prince died suddenly on April 21 at the age of 57 at his Paisley Park estate outside Minneapolis.

The cause of death is still unknown and investigators are examining whether he died of an opioid overdose.

The value of Prince's estate is unknown and includes large areas of land near his recording studios, Paisley Park, which was his most recent residence, in addition to his music.

The real estate alone is valued at about US$31.3 million (S$41.9 million), according to property records, and experts estimate that the music - including unpublished recordings in Prince's vault - is worth much more.

The value of his existing catalogue could be about US$50 million and thousands of hours of unreleased recordings stored in the vault might be worth another US$50 million, according to Mr Howard E. King, an entertainment lawyer who represented Prince in the past.

"The real unknowns are what is unreleased - and can it really be exploited for big money?" Mr King said.

"Is Prince big enough to be exploited in death the way Michael Jackson was? Can you sell tens of millions of dollars of Prince merchandise?"

That will depend on how his unreleased music is managed and whether it is handled by someone who enhances it or liquidates it, Mr King said.

Prohibitive estate tax, he added, could mean that the assets would be quickly liquidated. And it could be years before the estate's full value is known.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline 'Prince's 'half-sister' claims she is entitled to part of his estate'. Print Edition | Subscribe