More than a year after Prince’s death, a Carver County judge has officially determined that the musician’s sister and five half-siblings are heirs to his massive fortune.
In a ruling made public Friday, Judge Kevin Eide ordered that Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, and Omarr Baker, Alfred Jackson, Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson and John R. Nelson will divide an estate valued at $100 million to $300 million before taxes.
Prince left no will, but all six had been considered the likely heirs since his accidental overdose death last April at 57 years old.
A formal declaration of Prince’s heirs would give others a year to present credible claims that they also should be included. Eide has already ruled several ineligible. Some of them have objected to making a final heirship determination, noting that their appeals of his rulings are pending at the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
In his ruling, Eide said if the Court of Appeals or state Supreme Court decides there are other heirs, the district court would review the cases. No distribution of assets can happen without a formal order from Eide. No assets will be distributed that might adversely affect those who are challenging their right as heirs before the higher courts make any rulings, Eide said.
Hundreds of motions have been filed in connection to Prince’s estate. Attorneys representing the heirs said it’s the most complex probate case in Minnesota history.
Attorneys for the heirs and those challenging to become heirs couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Prince died at his Paisley Park recording studio on April 21, 2016, from an accidental overdose of opioid painkillers. Investigators have tried to identify the source of the fatal fentanyl dose, but no one has been arrested and it’s unclear whether charges will ever be filed.
In a court hearing two weeks ago, a lawyer representing several of the so-called “excluded” claimants argued that a ruling from the appeals court will take months, leaving little time before the final deadline. An attorney for some of the heirs said the longer the case drags on, the more costly the lawyer’s expenses.
In late January, Eide appointed Comerica Bank and Trust as personal representative for the estate, but court documents show that’s caused problems.
In a sworn statement March 10, Sharon Nelson said Comerica hasn’t made good on promises to work with the heirs to ensure Prince’s legacy and distribute the estate quickly.
The heirs have also filed attorney’s fees totaling more than $4 million, ranging from about $340,000 to the firm representing Sharon, Norrine and John Nelson, to more than $1.6 million for the two lawyers representing Alfred Jackson, according to court documents.
Sharon, Norrine and John Nelson filed memorandums arguing against paying the attorneys’ fees of the other three heirs, saying they include unnecessary expenses.
Meanwhile, Tyka Nelson and Baker have objected to paying more than $700,000 in attorney’s fees and costs to Stinson Leonard Street, the firm that represented Bremer Trust in its former role as special administrator. Nelson and Baker, through their attorneys, argued that Stinson failed to prove the fees — which represent just a month of work — benefited the estate.
The heirs have also filed motions centered on former Prince confidant L. Londell McMillan, an entertainment lawyer who’s been acting as a consultant to the estate.
Comerica is investigating allegations that McMillan mishandled a Prince tribute concert in October. Baker, one of Prince’s half-brothers, unsuccessfully tried to subpoena documents about McMillan’s recent music business deals and correspondence with Prince and the other heirs.
In another filing, Comerica is asking the judge to rescind the estate’s $31 million agreement on Jan. 31, 2017, with Universal Music for rights to Prince’s catalog of recorded music. Warner Bros. Records, the label with which Prince was long affiliated, claims it already owns the rights to the music that was sold to Universal. A hearing on that matter is set for May 31.
David Chanen • 612-673-4465