Hundreds of People Claiming They Are Heirs To Music Legend Prince’s Estate

heir to prince estateMore than 700 people have contacted Morse Genealogical Services in Florida to determine if they might be an “heir” of the multi-talented music superstar, Prince.

The legendary musician died suddenly at his Minnesota residence April 21 of an accidental drug overdose. He left an estate estimated to be worth more than $350 million. So far, no will or other planning documents have been found for the 57-year-old pop icon leaving him “intestate,” or deceased without a lawfully executed will.

Morse, a South Daytona firm, was appointed to sift through the claims of potential heirs, most of which will likely not be validated. Several hundred have only made telephone contact claiming to be a possible half-sibling of Prince. More than 20 others have actually filed court documents seeking an inheritance. Prince’s father, John Nelson, was reported to have had numerous relationships with women across the country—and is possibly the root of various half-sibling claims.

How Do You Know If You Are An Heir To An Estate?

In the United States, the law confers the right of succession – the passing of title to a deceased person’s property – and determines who shall take intestate property (when there is no will or a will is ruled invalid).

Heirs or next of kin “inherit” or “succeed” to the intestate property. State statutes prescribe the order in which persons “succeed” to the intestate’s property with closer relatives (including the spouse of the deceased) coming first, unless, of course, they, too are deceased. In Prince’s case, there was no spouse, no known children (legally referred to as “issue”) and his parents are deceased.

What Happens If Found To Be An Heir?

The statutes seek to implement the distribution of the estate that most intestate decedents would have provided had they made wills. The theory is that their property would pass to their nearest relatives rather than more remote ones. Thus, being a distance heir to a person who left a massive fortune may entitle one to nothing unless there is a valid will stating otherwise. Intestate statutes generally confer rights of inheritance only on blood relatives, adopted children, adoptive parents and the surviving spouse, or in Prince’s case as you go down the order of succession to surviving siblings.

“Kindred of the half-blood” refers to persons who share a half-blood relationship with the intestate because they have only one parent in common. As a general rule, “kindred of the half-blood” inherit equally with “kindred of the whole blood” (siblings who have the same parents). So, a person found to be a half-brother or half-sister of Prince would inherit the same as a full brother or full sister.

Some People Being Genetically Tested

Carver County (MN) District Judge Kevin Eide, who has been presiding over probate matters in Prince’s case to date, issued an order that Bremer Trust, a firm that Eide confirmed to handle estate business, can demand claimants undergo blood and genetic testing to verify their relationship to Prince. Samples of Prince’s blood preserved by the coroner can be used for DNA purposes. The specimens from potential heirs will be sent from the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Ramsey, MN to a DNA diagnostic center in Fairfield, OH.

Some claimants and their lawyers have told the court the scientific screening requirements go too far, but apparently Judge Eide is unmoved by their complaints. (Bremer Trust had an ongoing relationship with Prince managing his business and financial affairs during his lifetime. The firm recently said that its inquiry into locating a will “is coming to a close very soon.”)

Unresolved Questions in Estate Matters

Judge Eide has given no timeframe on how long it might take to settle the multimillion dollar estate or calculate its worth. Any disagreements with tax authorities over the value of the estate could result in additional litigation. Another unresolved question is who gets the rights to publicity—the right recognized in a person’s name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness related to products or services. In a person’s lifetime, these generally cannot be sold or advertised without an individual’s consent.

The Minnesota legislature is establishing a cause of action for the unauthorized use of these rights which would exist during a person’s lifetime and up to 50 years after death—100 years in some circumstances. There is also talk of developing Paisley Park into an amusement park or tourist attraction like Elvis Presley’s Graceland. Who would profit from an endeavor of this type is currently unclear.

Friends and fellow artists have expressed disbelief that Prince, who was in court probably more than any other musician fighting for control of his work product, and was familiar with the imperfect workings of the legal system, left so little undefined about who would benefit from his legacy. Billboard.com has reported that in his lifetime Prince made financial contributions to several organizations including Jehovah’s Witnesses, but unless he had a written pledge to a particular charity, all those gifts will stop. As it stands now, millions could go to the government. Prince’s assets are subject to a maximum 40 percent federal tax and a minimum 16 percent state tax.

Tyka Nelson, Prince’s sister, filed a petition in probate court April 26 stating, “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 identified herself as “an interested person” as defined by Minnesota law “because I am the Decedent’s heir.” In her petition, Tyka asked that Bremer Trust be designated to determine heirs, where those heirs are located, and to manage Prince’s ongoing business and financial affairs.

She also listed five half-siblings in her motion which she named as interested persons and heirs: Omarr Baker, John R. Nelson, Norrine Nelson, Sharon Nelson and Alfred Jackson. Two other half-siblings, Lorna Nelson and Duane Nelson, Sr. are deceased.

Prince’s estate includes his $7 million Paisley Park studio, his $16 million 187-acre Chanhassen, MN home, his large catalog of unreleased music which could be as many as 2,000 songs worth $100 million or more, and the undetermined value of future earnings. (His music sales are up 16,000% since his death so profits from those sales are also part of the estate.)

Judge Unseals Records of Would-Be Heirs

Initially Judge Eide had sealed the records of all persons claiming to be Prince’s heirs. On June 30, he unsealed these filings except for those claiming to be a child of Prince. The court offered no protection to those claiming to be a parent, sibling, half-sibling or other relative, but did say it would not make public attachments, social security numbers, bank account records, genetic testing records, death certificates, and birth records of some claimants. The judge said he will entertain comment on the unsealing and may modify it at a later date. Twenty three estate claimants and 21 attorneys were in attendance at the June 30 hearing.

A hearing has been set for July 28 to consider a motion filed by The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) and other media to intervene in the probate proceedings for the limited purpose of ensuring public access to court proceedings and records. Media are claiming Judge Eide has issued several orders in Prince’s case without first holding a public hearing.

At least one person is already on shaky ground in the quest to prove he was somehow financially involved with Prince. A California man, Rodney Dixon, claimed that he is “the sole and exclusive owner of all intellectual properties after the death of Prince Rogers Nelson including copyrights and music in the vault.” He asked to intervene in the probate proceedings as “an interested observer.” Dixon referenced two California cases from 1994 and 1995 that he said show an “implied agreement” between him and Prince relating to $1 billion plus the music in the vault which Dixon said he is entitled to.

Bremer Trust labeled the claim “frivolous” and asked that Dixon be banned from participating in estate proceedings.

List of Potential Prince Heirs

The following is a list of some of those claiming to be heirs to Prince (not including the half-siblings in Tyka Nelson’s petition referenced earlier in this article):

• Victoria Nelson, 13-year-old granddaughter of Prince’s deceased half- brother, Duane Nelson, Sr., who allegedly shared the same father as Prince. This would make Victoria, Prince’s grandniece.
• Darcell Johnston filed papers stating she is Prince’s long-lost half-sister (born from the same mother). Prince’s siblings and half-siblings in Tyka’s petition to the court learned of Johnston’s existence just before their claim was filed.
• Brianna Nelson says she is Prince’s niece and that her father was Prince’s half-brother, Duane Nelson, Sr.
• Carlin Q. Williams, 39, a prison inmate at a maximum security facility in Colorado, claims he is Prince’s son, product of a 1976 one-night stand between Prince and Williams’ mother at a Kansas City hotel. He produced an affidavit from his mother with his legal filing and demanded a blood test. Although twice married, by all accounts, Prince had one son who died in infancy. Williams was the first to make a paternity claim against Prince.
• A 43-year-old woman has claimed to be Prince’s daughter. Apparently, there is no record of Prince becoming a parent at 14 years of age.
• Norman Yates Carthens claims that he was adopted by the musician as his only son. He claims a will exists and he is due $7 million. He filed a Demand for Notice against the estate on June 6. He is from South Carolina.
• Regina L. Sorenson asked to be included in the DNA testing and said she was a half-sibling and business partner of Prince. She says the estate owes her “an undetermined amount.” She professes to sharing the same paternity as the acclaimed musician but lists her biological father as Paul Lenard Newman who was not Prince’s father.
• Dr. Roskco Motes claims to be the half-brother of Prince but he names Haywood Nelson Sr. as the father of both himself and the famous musician, not John Nelson.
• Venita Giselle Jackson Leverette claims to be a half-sister of Prince through Mattie Shaw, Prince’s mother. She is also attempting to make a connection to Prince through her father’s side of the family, but it appeared dubious.
• Six women and two men from throughout the country each filed a demand for notice or heirship affidavits alleging they are the descendants of Virginia Nelson (Thompson), the sibling of Prince’s great-grandfather, Clarence Nelson. In general, intestacy law bars such distant relatives from inheriting an estate.
• Nicole Patricia White, a Brooklyn resident, said she is owed a share of Prince’s estate and a DNA test will prove “a familial relationship.”
• Michael John Darling from Rush City, MN called himself a potential heir and said he might be one of those named in the will. (No will has been found.)
• Three additional women, one each from Alabama, Atlanta, and Ohio have filed claims against Prince’s estate for money allegedly owed them for services provided in the music business. The amounts range from $46,582 to $500,000. A fourth woman, Dr. Karolina R. Kennedy Ferrara (aka Maleika Moseley), is seeking $750 million from Prince’s estate. She said she has been seeking compensation from Prince since the mid-1980’s for the post-Civil Rights Movement Sociopolitical Hostage Crisis that has been going on for 40 years.

Importance of Getting Legal Assistance with Probate Issues in Ohio

The unfortunate passing of Prince is bringing attention to the importance of wills, estate planning process, and the probate process. It’s important to prepare and leave your family with clear instructions regardless of the size of your estate.

At Slater & Zurz LLP, we have attorneys who have extensive experience with the probate laws of Ohio and probate litigation. We offer free consultations to people everyday who have recently lost loved ones so they can get their questions answered and the guidance they need. A free consultation is a simple and straight-forward process. There is no cost whatsoever and you are under no obligation to hire our law firm.

To request a free consultation, please contact us by calling 1-888-467-5105, chat with one of our 24-hour live chat operators or send us a website message.

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