Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Legal Battle Ensues over Prince's Music

Prince tidalSeveral unanswered questions still remain as to the management and distribution of Prince’s estate since his death in April 2016. Specifically, much is still unknown about the status of his valuable music catalog. Jay-Z’s companies, Tidal and Roc Nation, are in a legal battle with Bremer Trust, the administrator of Prince’s estate, over the late singer’s intellectual property, which includes a vault of unreleased music. Bremer Trust filed a copyright infringement suit, alleging that Tidal only had exclusive rights to stream Prince’s new music for ninety days but instead streamed all fifteen Prince albums. The defendant companies claim they had an oral and written agreement with Prince to exclusively stream his music, while Prince’s label NPG Records claims they terminated any agreement made before his death. Currently, representatives for the singer’s estate are nearing a deal to stream his music on Apple Music and Spotify. However, with Prince’s highly critical perspective of the music industry, it would come as no surprise that Prince struck a deal with Tidal because they have a reputation of being substantially more artist-friendly.  

See Michael Feispor, Jay-Z’s Tidal, Roc Nation and Bremer Trust Battle over Prince’s Music, Forbes, January 11, 2017. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.


January 13, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Prince's Estate Submits Asset Inventory

Prince5An inventory of Prince’s estate has recently been submitted to probate court, evincing that he acquired millions of dollars’ worth of real estate and other personal property before his death. Bremer Trust, the company overseeing his estate, listed several properties in Carver and Hennepin counties worth an estimated $25.4 million. Additionally, the inventory lists approximately $110,000 in bank accounts and $840,000 in gold bars. Prince’s companies—Paisley Park Enterprises Inc., NPG Records Inc., NPG Music Publishing, and LotusFlow3r—had more than $6 million in cash on hand. However, the late singer’s musical instruments, jewelry, household furnishings, car, custom motorcycles, trademarks, and copyrights have not been assigned a value. 

See Asset Inventory of Prince’s Estate Lists Cash, Property, Gold Bars, Fox News, January 8, 2017. 


January 9, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Problem with the Chinese Not Having Wills

Chinese willsChina is the world’s most populous nation with the second-largest economy, but almost no one has a will to pass on their estate. Only 1% of Chinese seniors have created an inheritance plan. The reason is cultural—the subject of death is taboo, and writing a will is thought to put a curse on the testator. Now thirty years after communist China allowed individuals to accumulate wealth, that first generation to benefit is starting to die, creating inheritance disputes that are clogging up the court system. To remedy this problem, the government is requesting that local authorities establish free legal centers for seniors. 

See Hannah Gardner, Chinese Don’t Have Wills – and Now It’s a Big Problem, USA Today, January 2, 2017. 


January 4, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Prince's Trust Sells Four of His Properties

Paisley park2The trust controlling Prince’s estate has sold four of his properties—one house and three plots of land. All four properties are located in his hometown of Chanhassen, Minnesota, where they have a combined value of $1.34 million. Two of his properties, Paisley Park and his Turks and Caicos home, are not currently for sale. While these properties are in the final stages of sale, potential heirs are still waiting on the judge to decide who will inherit the late singer’s $300 million estate.  

See Jennifer Smith, Four of Prince’s Houses Are Sold as His Relatives Continue to Fight Over Who Will Inherit His $300m Estate, Daily Mail, December 30, 2016. 


December 30, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Learn from These Celebrities' Estate-Planning Mistakes

Celebrity deathsAverage Americans make estate-planning mistakes all the time, but when a celebrity makes them, we are sure to hear about it, and each story can leave us with some estate-planning wisdom. The biggest lesson of 2016 is one that we can all learn from Prince—you must have an estate plan! The singer died without his own estate plan, which gave large sums of money to attorneys, banks, and the government. Further, it is important to update your estate plan to account for your beneficiaries’ life situation. Whitney Houston never updated her estate plan after her daughter was born, which left her daughter with large sums of money at an early age, and she died shortly after. Another lesson for your estate plan is that when you create a trust, you must retitle the assets in the name of the trust. Michael Jackson’s estate dealt with this issue for many years because he did not properly “fund” his trust. Also, you must plan for the possibility of new heirs in your estate plan. Heath Ledger had an estate plan, but after his sudden death, all of his fortune went to his parents and sister, not his daughter. Finally, you must keep your estate plan in a safe place and communicate to your family where that is. Florence Joyner had a will but never told anyone where it was located, so her family spent the next four years in litigation before coming to a settlement. These are just some of the many estate-planning lessons we can learn from celebrities. 

See Matthew Talbot, Avoid These Celebrity Mistakes with Your Estate Plan, Lamorinda Weekly, December 28, 2016. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.


December 29, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Intestate Succession, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Prince's Divorce Lawyer Makes Claim Against His Estate for Legal Bill

Prince divorce lawyersPrince’s divorce lawyer is claiming that the late pop icon never paid is $600,000 tab. Cousins Law Firm in West Palm Beach filed a claim against Prince’s estate demanding payment of the bill. A lawyer from the firm says Prince racked up the legal bill in 2006 with his divorce from his second wife, Manuela Testolini. The lawyer further claims that him and Prince had an agreement that the singer would not have to pay the bill until all loose ends were tied up. Everything was allegedly wrapped up on April 1 of this year; Prince died on April 21. 

See Prince Died Without Paying Divorce Lawyer, TMZ, December 20, 2016. 


December 20, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Prince's Estate Estimate Made Public

Prince estat estimateA new court filing estimates Prince’s estate to be worth approximately $200 million. This is the first time a specific estimate has been brought to the public. Prince’s six siblings are in line to inherit equal shares of his estate after taxes. Bremer Trust originally estimated the estate to be in ballpark of $100–$200 million after placing values on his catalogue, unreleased music, Paisley Park mansion, and other valuable assets. Bremer Trust also put out a memo noting the company’s fee at $90,000 per month, using a fee schedule based on the value of an estate. It is possible that the company is slightly devaluing the estate due to the looming tax bill. Ultimately, the final total of the estate will not be revealed until after more appraisals and taxing authorities value the estate’s worth.

See Prince’s Estate Is Worth at Least $200 Million, Court Filing Shows, Thanks to His Extensive Catalogue, Unreleased Music and Paisley Park Mansion, Daily Mail, December 1, 2016.

December 1, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Much Are Prince's Lawyers Making?

Prince lawyersPrince’s lawyers are making millions handling his estate and legal issues. Bermer Trust, the special administrator of Prince’s estate, filed legal documents asking the court to approve a $2.3 million bill that accumulated between July 1 and September 30. The biggest expense was for the legal services of Stinson Leonard Street for $1.8 million—all for three months of work. Several law firms are handling aspects of the late singer’s estate from claims by potential heirs to Paisley Park Museum plans.

See Prince: Lawyers Haul in Millions Off Death, TMZ, December 1, 2016.

December 1, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Prince Now Has an Alleged Wife?

Prince8Prince now has an alleged wife, Claire Elisabeth Elliott, who is warning his estate that when he died all of his money was to go exclusively to her. The woman filed a request to remove Bremer Trust bank as the administrator of Prince’s estate, believing she should be making all the decisions for his estate as its sole heir. She claims to have a marriage certificate as proof. The singer’s alleged wife’s claims are looking quite bleak.

See Prince: Woman Warns Estate . . . Step Aside, I’m His Wife!, TMZ, November 28, 2016.

November 29, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Brownstone's Bitter Inheritance Battle

BrownstoneBill Cornwell and Tom Doyle lived together as committed partners in a brownstone for over five decades. For most of their relationship, gay marriage was illegal, not allowing them to affirm their relationship. Two years ago, Mr. Cornwell died, bequeathing the valuable brownstone to Mr. Doyle, which is now in dispute. Mr. Cornwell’s nieces and nephews have ignored the bequest and claimed it as their inheritance, putting the brownstone up for sale at $7 million. 

Mr. Cornwell’s will was only witnessed by one person, which makes the will legally invalid because of the need for two witnesses. Without a valid will, the law requires that Mr. Cornwell’s assets pass to his next of kin—his nieces and nephews. Mr. Doyle’s argument is that the two of them were involved in a common law marriage, even though New York does not recognize this arrangement. This legal battle has left Mr. Doyle confused over those he once considered extended family.  

See Sarah Maslin Nir, A Brownstone and the Bitter Fight to Inherit It, NY Times, October 23, 2016. 

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.


October 24, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)