By: Jim Conway, Shareholder Estate planning, including writing a will, is important to accurately describe who you wish to inherit your property and to avoid infighting among heirs, particularly where a person has no living children. In Minnesota, a person that dies without making a will passes their estate in accordance with Minnesota’s intestate succession laws. These laws spell out who gets what property, and which relations have priority over other ones. For Prince’s estate this will be a little messy because Prince apparently has no children, has a full-blood sibling, and a number of half-siblings, some of whom may not be known to the others. Sorting out who is even related to Prince is going to be a primary issue. But once that happens, the question many people are asking is whether Prince’s full-blood sibling will get all or the estate, or a greater share, than any half-siblings or more distant relations.
Under Minn. Stat. 524.2-103, the intestate succession law, a spouse gets all or a share of the estate, and if there is no spouse, than the children of the decedent inherit the whole estate, if children exist. If there are no children, the estate passes to the decedent’s parent or parents who are living. If there is no living parent, then the estate passes to the children of the decedent’s parents. A 1942 Minnesota Supreme Court case, McDonnall v. Drawz, interpreted a prior iteration of this statute saying sibling inheritance in this way means full-blood and half-blood siblings inherit equally. Only if the estate was to pass via a degree of kindred farther removed from the decedent than a common grandparent would degree of kinship (like half-blood relations) have any effect on the inheritance. As a result Prince’s full-blood sister will take an equal 1/7 share with the other half-siblings. Prince appears to have a predeceased half-sibling, and that person’s children will take their parent’s share by right of representation.
The next problem that this estate will face is the practical problems of dividing up what appears to be a massive estate. Cutting up a bank account seven ways is easy. But, dividing up a bunch of guitars and recording equipment, a $14MM piece of property in Chanhassen, apportioning a variety of ongoing business interests and managing those businesses, and figuring out what to do with all of Prince’s intellectual property, like his rights to his music that has been released as well as any recordings which have yet to be released, will be a technical challenge even if everyone agreed. But, in my experience there is never a consensus opinion when any significant sum of money is at issue.