After Six-Year Battle, Prince Siblings Forced to Split 50% of Estate After Singer Dies Without Will. Publisher Gets the Other Half.

The battle between the estate of musical genius Prince and heirs of Prince has come to an end. After a six-year fight to determine control over the pop star’s approximately $160 million fortune left behind after his sudden death on April 21, 2016, surviving relatives find themselves splitting a portion of his treasure and planning what’s next for his unreleased music.

Prince performs at half time during Super Bowl XLI between the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears at Dolphins Stadium in Miami, Florida on February 4, 2007. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)

Recently released documents show that there will be a split of a little under $6 million from the $156.4 million estate. That split will be between Prince’s sister, Sharon Nelson, his brother Norrine Nelson, and the John R. Nelson Revocable Trust, Prince Legacy LLC, Prince OAT Holdings LLC, attorney L. Londell McMillan, Charles Spicer, and Primary Wave Music — an American entertainment company that acquired part of the estate from three other siblings (Tyka Nelson, Omarr Baker, Alfred Jackson).

A court order states, “Excepting the Reserve and following the payments set forth in Paragraph 8, herein, the property of the Decedent on hand for distribution consists of the following: $5,638,878.29 in cash.”

Over the years, to reach this agreement, the parties have made over 4,800 court filings with the Carver County courts, CBS News reports.

The estate’s net worth was finally established in January 2022, after the heirs and the Internal Revenue Service agreed on its final tax valuation. Prince left no will when he died.

In February 2022, a Minnesota judge approved a proposal that divided the assets between Primary Wave and three of the original heirs.

“We are free at last, thank God almighty, we are free,” said Sharon Nelson, Prince’s sister. “It’s been a long, long grueling six years.”

She continued, “What’s the most important thing that you think about when you think of Prince? The music, absolutely, and where is it? It isn’t here. So we’re going to bring it back, that’s what we’re going to do. Once we have the music, they are going to get the real good sound that they should have had six years ago,” Nelson said. “We’re going to bring his original music out.”

Prince estate continues to grow

The estate has released music since his death, though not new music. The posthumous and archival Prince collections that have dropped on different distribution models include 2021’s “Welcome 2 America” with Legacy Records. The Purple One’s first label, Warner Bros., reissued deluxe versions of classic albums “Purple Rain,” “1999,” and “Sign O’ the Times.”

A spokesperson for Primary Wave said the brand is “extremely pleased that the process of closing the Prince estate has now been finalized.”

“Prince was an iconic superstar and this transfer out of the court’s jurisdiction puts in place professional, skilled management,” Primary Wave continued. “When we announced our acquisition of the additional expectancy interests in the estate last year bringing our ownership interest to 50%, our goal was to protect and grow Prince’s incomparable legacy. With the distribution of estate assets, we look forward to a strong and productive working relationship.”

Heirs created limited liability corporations to protect their share

Under the advice of Prince’s longtime manager, advisor and attorney McMillian, the remaining heirs each has created limited liability corporations to manage and oversee their shares of the estate, with Judge Kevin W. Eide signing the agreement on Monday, Aug. 1.

McMillan brought attention to two of the heirs, Alfred Jackson and John R. Nelson, who transitioned during the legal fight, spending their last years embattled to receive a portion of the estate their brother wanted them to have. He urged a revamp of laws regarding estates by legislators. 

The attorney, who worked with the artist to come up with the “Artist Formerly Known As” strategy to get out of contractual obligations with Warner Bros., said this “calls into question some of the laws of the state of Minnesota and how we can possibly look for future laws to possibly protect elders and people in situations like this so that they don’t have to go through such a rigorous process.”

He also shifted his attention to the controlling bank, saying he was “relieved and thrilled to finally be done with the probate court system and bankers who do not know the music business and did not know Prince.

“I represented Prince for over 13 years and we led with innovation to reform the music industry – we hope to do the same with his amazing assets and catalog, from his music, film content, exhibits, merchandise, Paisley Park events, branded products and more,” McMillan said in a statement shared with Billboard. “It is a historical and very exciting time. Prince is almost free to rest now…”

What happened upon Prince’s death

After Prince’s 2016 death, Comerica Bank was charged as the financial institute overseeing the administration of the estate during the legal battle for control over the portfolio. It will retain a $3 million “reserve” just in case a future dispute emerges or an unforeseen issue needs to be settled.

The agreement reads, “Comerica shall retain a total of $3 million as a reserve to ensure it can pay the costs and expenses associated with closing the Estate including the preparation of tax returns, professional fees, expenses, and any awards entered in pending litigation involving the Estate, expenses previously incurred by the Estate for which it has not received invoices, and any other necessary expenses.”

Prince died in his Paisley Park, Minnesota, home on April 21, 2016, at the age of 57. On June 2, the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Anoka County declared via a press release that his transition was a result of an accidental fentanyl overdose.

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