Some People Claiming To Be Heirs Will Not Inherit Music Legend Prince’s Wealth

Prince probate litigation with heirsThe battle to prove kinship to the musical legend Prince continues with several developments among the tangled web of claimants professing to be his heirs.

Prince Rogers Nelson, a singer, songwriter, record producer, actor, and multi-talented instrumentalist, died April 21 at his home in Minnesota of an accidental drug overdose. He was one of the best-selling and influential artists in the world and was a musical innovator to whom few could compare.

In the past few weeks, the following news has emerged:

A New “Heir” Claims He Is Prince’s Son

A free California weekly newspaper, The Santa Monica Observer, released a story July 28 that a DNA paternity test showed that it was 99% probable that Prince was the father of an unidentified man. The man’s mother allegedly had several liaisons with Prince in the 1980s when the two performed in the same clubs. The story said the man is in his 30s and lives in the Midwest. He has not made a formal claim to the estate and apparently contacted Heir Hunters International about being a possible heir.

The Observer did not explain how DNA from Prince was obtained for the test. A genetic testing procedure had been set up by the probate court in Carver County, Minnesota. As of July 31, no independent news source, other than the Observer, was reporting the information about the alleged son.

At least two other men have come forth since the pop icon’s death claiming to be his son. Colorado inmate, Carlin Q. Williams, even included an affidavit from his mother saying she had unprotected sex with Prince, but Williams’ assertion has been found to have no basis in fact, according to Bremer Trust, a Minnesota financial firm serving as court-appointed special administrators of Prince’s estate.

The second claim was from Norman Yates Carthens of Barnwell, South Carolina who has also been in jail. He says he is an adopted son of Prince and is due $7 million, according to the will. (Prince’s son, Gregory, died in infancy and so far no will prepared by Prince has been found.)

A Law Firm Has “Relevant Information” To Help Determine Heirs

A Minneapolis law firm, Henson & Efron, sought guidance in early July from Judge Kevin Eide, who is presiding over Prince’s probate proceeding. Principals of the firm told the judge, they “might possess confidential information potentially relevant” to determining the eligible heirs of Prince. They did not explain how the information would help in determining heirs, but said they were concerned about attorney-client privilege in the matter.

Judge Eide gave the firm permission to privately share information with Bremer Trust. Speculation among local lawyers is that the information Henson & Efron have does not concern a will because the lawyers would have been legally obligated to produce it earlier. Estate attorneys said even a draft of a testamentary document may have little value if it has not been properly written and executed.

The firm represented Prince in his 2006 divorce from Manuela Testolini Nelson.

Estate Administrator Dismisses Claims

As of late June, some 29 persons had made a formal claim to the court about a familial relationship with Prince. Several hundred more had contacted a genealogical service hired by the court to help sort out who should share in Prince’s fortune, estimated at $300 to $500 million. By the end of July, David Crosby of Bremer Trust, informed several of these claimants that:

• They had not established any proof of a close relationship to Prince OR

• Their claim depended on Prince being the offspring of parents other than John Lewis Nelson and Mattie Shaw.

What Happens When a Person Dies Without a Will

If a person dies without a will, as Prince apparently did, or the will is ruled invalid, that person is “intestate.” The laws of the state where the person lives will decide what’s going to happen to the intestate person’s property. State statutes attempt to distribute the estate of an intestate person in the manner the deceased person probably would have if they had made a will. The theory is that the property passes to the nearest relatives rather than more remote ones because this is what the deceased person would have desired. The state “creates a will” in effect with the laws of intestacy.

In general, the intestate person’s property goes first to his or her spouse, then to his children and grandchildren, and if he has no spouse or children, to his parents. This is the order of succession, but each state may have different laws. In Prince’s case, he had no spouse, no living children or grandchildren and his parents were deceased when he died. In Minnesota, next in line would be his siblings.

It appears Prince had one full sibling and several half-siblings, or what is called in legal terms, “kindred of the half-blood.” He had one parent in common with these half-siblings. Half-siblings inherit equally with kindred of the whole blood (siblings who have the same parents, like Prince and Tyka). Thus, anyone found to be a half-sister or half-brother of Prince would inherit the same as his full sister. The same goes for adopted children. They will inherit the same as a natural-born child which explains Mr. Carthens’ bid to be recognized as an “adopted son.” (See “A new heir claims he is the son…)

Prince’s parents were both married more than once and apparently had other relationships. Because of this so many people have claimed they are Prince’s half-brother or half-sister. At the end of July, Bremer Trust made the following determination of heirs. The process continues to ascertain if there will be additional heirs named.

• Tyka Nelson is Prince’s full sister and they are the children of John Lewis Nelson and Mattie Shaw who were married to each other when Tyka and Prince were born. Under Minnesota law, John and Mattie are presumed to be the genetic parents. There is no need for genetic testing.

• Sharon, Norrine and John Rodger Nelson are children of Prince’s father during his earlier marriage to Vivian Nelson. The three are half-siblings to Prince as a matter of law and no genetic testing is required to establish their relationship to him.

• Alfred Alonzo Jackson is the son of Mattie Shaw, born during her earlier marriage to Alfred B. Jackson, Sr. According to Bremer Trust, no genetic testing is necessary to establish that Alfred is the half-brother of Prince.

• Omarr Julius Baker is the son of Mattie Shaw and Hayward Julius Baker. As a matter of law, he and Prince have the same mother and they are half-siblings. Bremer declared no genetic testing was necessary to establish this.

These People Had Their Claims Dismissed

Thirteen people from various states were found to have “a lower priority than sibling” in the intestate line of succession. Several of them claimed to be related to the sister of Prince’s great-grandfather, Clarence Nelson, (the sister was Virginia Thompson Nelson). Bremer ruled they would be distant cousins and are not automatically eligible to inherit in the line of succession under Minnesota law.

Two other people (one of them Dr. Roskco Motes), who claimed to be half-siblings of Prince were ruled out because their claim depended on another man, other than John Lewis Nelson, being Prince’s father. If Prince’s parents were married when he was born, which it appears they were, he is recognized as their biological child. If there is a challenge to paternity in Minnesota it should be made by the time the child is three years old. There is no challenge on record.

Three other would-be heirs, Darcell Grenham Johnston, Orrine Gresham and Loyal James “Jimmy” Gresham III, claimed they were half-siblings of Prince because their father, Loyal James Gresham, Jr. allegedly fathered Prince in an illicit affair he had in 1957 with Mattie Shaw, Prince’s mother.

Supposedly Loyal Gresham, Jr. was a friend of John Lewis Nelson, Mattie’s husband at the time and the man who is recognized as Prince’s father. (Prince was born in 1958.) Bremer said the presumption that John Lewis Nelson in Prince’s father is conclusive and cannot be legally challenged at this point. No genetic testing is necessary because the trio is not half-siblings of the legendary musician.

Two potential heirs who were not ruled out were Victoria and Brianna Nelson. (Brianna is Victoria’s aunt.) Victoria, 11, alleges she is the granddaughter of Prince’s deceased half-brother, Duane Nelson, Sr. This would make her Prince’s grand-niece and a lineal descendant of one of Prince’s siblings.

Brianna claims to be the daughter of Duane Nelson, Sr. which would make her Prince’s niece and also a lineal descendant of Prince’s sibling. (Duane Nelson, Sr. died in 2011. A third half-sister, Lorna Nelson, is also deceased.) According to, the status of the claims of Victoria and Brianna Nelson is unclear and may have to be decided by genetic testing. In the affidavits filed by Tyka Nelson and her half-siblings five days after Prince’s death, it stated that Duane Nelson, Sr. was ruled out as John Lewis Nelson’s son when the latter’s estate was settled in 2002.

Apparently there is no documentation that John Lewis Nelson and Duane Sr.’s mother, Vivian Nelson, were married at the time Duane Sr. was born in 1958. They were married in 1938, but if they were divorced before Duane’s birth, there is no automatic presumption of Duane Sr.’s parentage. Duane’s birth certificate shows John and Vivian Nelson as his parents, but this isn’t enough according to Bremer Trust. Evidence the couple were married at the time of the birth must be produced to establish a link between Duane Sr.’s descendants and Prince or genetic testing must verify the relationship.

It was also announced that four persons who have claimed to be children of Prince will not be successful in their assertion. The court is still considering the affirmation of one person who claims to be Prince’s child.

Probate Litigation Issues in Ohio

Hopefully, you will not leave behind anywhere near the controversy which has arisen following Prince’s death. But if you are involved in any wills and estates issues, we have highly experienced probate litigation attorneys you can contact who will help you sort out who the rightful heirs should be and answer other important questions.

Many estate issues can, of course, be solved ahead of time if you prepare a will and have it properly executed. It does not have to be an expensive proposition or a time-consuming process.

Contact us for a free consultation with one of our probate litigation attorneys. A free consultation is just that – free. There is no cost whatsoever and there is no obligation to hire our law firm.

To schedule your free consultation, please call 1-888-467-5105, chat with one of our 24-hour live chat operators or send us a website message.

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