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Updates on the Quagmire of the Prince Estate: Missing Heirs & Intestacy

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2016 | Estate Planning, Podcasts

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00:01 Somita Basu: Hi, I’m Somita Basu.
00:03 Zakiya Norton: And I’m Zakiya Norton, and today we are revisiting our Prince podcast, When Doves Cry, to give you an update about what’s been going on. So since we last talked, there’s been quite a few issues that have now come to the fore, the first of which is just kind of figuring out exactly how many people are there [chuckle] that are going to be potentially inheriting from Prince? So when we last spoke I think we had the siblings down. And so as it turns out, I think one of the siblings has passed away, so there’s a potential niece and nephew that may be stepping into position to inherit, because that’s what would happen under Minnesota intestacy, which is the same in California. If there’s no children, if there’s no parents, then your brothers and sisters inherit everything in equal shares. However, plot twist, there may potentially be an alleged son out there. And if that’s the case, if that is proven to be true, guess what, folks? He inherits everything.

01:03 SB: Even though he’s in jail currently.

01:04 ZN: Even though he’s in jail. A lot of states have some laws on the books. Of course, they don’t want anybody to profit from murder or things like that, so if you have killed the person who passed away, you obviously don’t get to then to profit from that death and inherit. But aside from that, you get to inherit that money. Some other states have passed some minor laws about reimbursing the state for having to house you while you were incarcerated and things like that. But once the state takes their chunk, you get whatever is left, which in this instance, is going to be a very large sum.

01:39 SB: Right. So that means the siblings get nothing.

01:42 ZN: That’s true, that’s right. The siblings would then get absolutely nothing. So that, I mean that is, that’s huge.

01:50 SB: That’s huge. I know there’s a paternity test that’s gonna have to be done. The administrator of the trust, which is the Bremer Trust, which is a fiduciary organization in Minnesota, is actually managing all of these. They’re the administrator. And so they did take a blood sample from Prince before he was, his last rites, before he was buried. And I think they anticipated that this was gonna happen. I think there are a lot of people on pins and needles awaiting the outcome of this paternity test, because the court has ordered everybody to prove their relationship to Prince via genetic testing if you are not a brother or sister. So this guy in prison is going to have to prove that he is actually the result of a one-night stand that Prince had with his mom, I guess. So should be very interesting.

02:41 ZN: Yes, yes. And things like this pop up in regular cases, not just with famous people, but this idea of missing heirs is something that can cause quite a quagmire, I will say, in any probate process.

02:58 SB: Yeah. And I think what happens is people get very upset when people come forward that you didn’t know. You have a half-brother or a half-sister, you didn’t know about them or you kinda knew about them but they weren’t involved in your relatives’ lives and suddenly they come forward. But the thing that we have seen in our practice and in our experience is that those people will be found. They will show up.

03:21 ZN: They will find their way to the dinner table and demand their slice of pie. [laughter]

03:24 SB: Yeah, that’s right. They will find their way to the dinner table. And even if you don’t know where they are, the minute a probate petition is filed that says we think there is another child or brother or sister or…

03:38 ZN: Missing heir of some sort.

03:38 SB: Missing heir of some sort. There are companies that are called heir hunters. And what they do is they comb the court records for these kind of petitions, and then they go out and they find these people.

03:50 ZN: Right. And if anyone’s interested, there’s actually an entire show about this on BBC called Heir Hunters. And they track what these companies are doing and it is, I mean, it is quite interesting, the length that they go to to find these people because they get a cut.

04:05 SB: They get a cut. They take a cut of your inheritance. So if the estate is worth a million dollars and you’re gonna get a half a million, they will say, “Okay, well, we’ll take 30% of that half a million.” And their theory is that if we hadn’t found you, you wouldn’t get anything. And so most people do sign on for this. A lot of people do. But they’re very quick. They find people within 24 to 48 hours.

04:28 ZN: Yeah. In our experience, whenever we’ve had missing heirs, by the next day, they’re contacting us saying, “Hey, I heard there’s this probate petition where I might be getting some money. So get my seat at the dinner table ready.” [laughter]

04:41 SB: “Put my name card on the place setting.” If you think there is a way to get around that, there really is not. Because these people have vested interests in inheriting and the heir hunters have a vested interest. So they will find them.

04:56 ZN: Right. And so really, the only way to protect against this and prevent any of this is, everybody say it with me now, get an estate plan. And in your estate plan you not only need to reference, if you have some sort of blended family or whatever the situation is, adopted children or just a child that you know is struggling with some things and you really don’t think that they should be getting any of your inheritance because they may do something you don’t want them to do with it. You can’t just leave them out of your estate plan, because the court will think you accidentally omitted them. So you actually have to say, “Yes, I have this child. This is when they were born, and I am disinheriting them. I do not want them to have any part of my estate. And I have all my faculties. I’m aware, didn’t leave them out. I don’t want them to have anything.”

05:48 SB: And that’s okay, and you can do that for any reason. You don’t need to have a reason. You don’t have to be able to, you don’t have to say, “Oh, they did this to me or there was some sort of bad blood.” You can disinherit anybody for any reason from inheriting your estate.

06:02 ZN: Right. Yeah, that’s a good point. People probably think that there needs to be something behind it, and it’s really not. It could be what… And, hey, we don’t care. We don’t care what the reason is.

06:09 SB: No judgment. No judgment.

06:12 ZN: But, yeah, the language has to be very specific. The court just really wants to know that you contemplated this and you did this on purpose, not by accident.

06:19 SB: Right. Right. So by having a complete estate plan, you take care of all of this.

06:26 ZN: Yes.

06:26 SB: So if Prince had had an estate plan, he could’ve said, like, “If I have any kids that I don’t know about, I don’t want them inheriting anything. I just want everything to go to my sisters or my brothers or one person.” He could’ve easily done that, and there would have been very little that anybody could have done about it.

06:42 ZN: Right, yeah. So many ways to contemplate and take care of this in your estate plan, for sure.

06:46 SB: Right. So watch out for those missing heirs. They will pop up.

06:49 ZN: They will pop up [chuckle] and demand to be fed.

06:53 SB: And demand to be fed, so take care of that and call an estate planning attorney and get that taken care of.

07:00 ZN: And thank you for listening to Estate of Mind , and we will see you next time.

Photo credit: By Zarateman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons