Image Credit: Erik Drost
It's been two years since the musician and performer Prince passed away at the age of 57 at his home in Minnesota. Prince died from an accidental opioid overdose, an issue that tragically is more and more common in America. And while he left behind an enormous fortune estimated at around $200 million dollars, the six heirs to estate haven't seen any distributions of funds to date. Some people are getting paid, though - so who are they? Attorneys, the bank acting as executor, and the IRS.
Heirs and beneficiaries have concrete rights under the law to their estate or trust, but the case of Prince's inheritance shows the dangers of litigation gridlock. For one thing, the executor, Comerica Bank and Trust, and the IRS still can't agree on a final valuation of the singer's estate. Prince's intellectual property, from recordings to videos, has yet to be appraised in negotiations for further use. That means that Prince's six heirs can't receive any distribution until the two parties reach a final figure. In addition, the state of Minnesota and the IRS are set to take about half of the fortune.
Aside from the taxman, the only people currently profiting from Prince's estate are Comerica and its legal team, who have racked up a bill totaling nearly $9 million. The attorneys for the heirs will also need to have their legal fees paid for ongoing court actions. The presiding judge wisely warned every side in the matter that the celebrity decedent's estate is "not an unlimited resource!" And he's right. Sometimes litigation is necessary. But just remember that it's also expensive and time-consuming, and if there are alternative strategies available to reach a settlement, it's almost always a good idea to try those methods first. In many instances I've found that mediation has saved my clients time, money, and emotional energy that would have been quickly exhausted in litigation.
I hope Prince's heirs can come to a fair settlement soon. Let their story be a lesson on the risks of litigation - clients can often benefit more when estate attorneys can mediate and forge a path to a mutually acceptable compromise.