When It Purple Rains, It Pours

Written by Kelly Johnson on 04/27/2016

On April 21, 2016, just six days ago, the world lost yet another musical legend—Prince. Buildings, bridges, stadiums, skylines, and landmarks all over the country (especially in his home state of Minnesota) have lit up purple to honor Prince. Musical artists of all genres are paying tribute to Prince in their own concerts and shows. Prince was only 57, seemed in good health, and the exact cause of his death is still unknown. As a lawyer, my mouth dropped when news broke yesterday that Prince left this physical world without a will—otherwise known as Intestate. Who will get his Diamonds and Pearls or his Little Red Corvette?

How would Prince’s estate be distributed if he lived in North Carolina? Well, because each state has its own set of Intestate Succession statutes, we would look to Chapter 29 of the General Statutes. Money Don’t Matter 2 Night, but it sure does without a will or trusts.

The first question is WHO gets his estate? Who are Prince’s heirs? Prince was not married, his parents have passed, and he did not have any children. In North Carolina, if the decedent (the person who passed) was not survived by any children, grandchildren, or parents, the siblings and lineal descendants of any deceased siblings would share the estate. The statute provides for the method of determining shares for each descendant; we could Go Crazy with some math equations, but I will spare you. By the way, North Carolina makes no distinctions between relations of whole blood or half blood relatives (step-siblings). You may be The Most Beautiful Girl in the World or a Hot Thing, but if you aren’t related to Prince by blood, step aside. Once the heirs are identified, the fun begins.

If you are an heir to a decedent’s estate, you can take the death certificate of the decedent to the Clerk of Court and file for Letters of Administration. If multiple heirs file, especially if the heirs are unqualified to administer the estate, a public administrator may be appointed. The heirs may need their own attorneys to help facilitate and evaluate the property for distribution. (The attorneys at Waple & Houk can assist you through this process.)

Prince’s heirs include one sister and five step-siblings, all living, so it is likely the estate will be divided equally. It is also likely that a public administrator will be appointed. However, Prince’s assets are estimated between $250-300 million, including dozens of properties, an unpublished memoir, licenses to his music, and thousands of unreleased songs.

What if someone finds a handwritten will in Prince’s home? What if Prince already gave part of his estate to one of his heirs, known as an advancement? Better yet, what if a child is born within ten lunar months of April 21st and the child is determined to be Prince’s child? The potential complications added to this seemingly impossible estate distribution could make you Delirious and could take years to estimate, catalogue, and distribute. Prince's siblings and their lawyers are about to find out what it sounds like When Doves Cry.

“We could all die any day. But, before I’ll let that happen, I’ll dance my life away.” RIP Prince