In this episode of An Estate of Mind Podcast, Zakiya Norton and Somita Basu of Norton Basu LLP, discuss the death of Prince and the importance of estate planning.
When Doves Cry: Prince’s death, his legacy, and lessons in estate planning
00:06 Speaker 1: Welcome to the Estate of Mind podcast, featuring Zakiya Norton and Somita Basu of Norton Basu LLP. Bringing you the latest estate planning and probate news, and observations. Norton Basu is your preferred Silicon Valley based estate planning and probate law firm.
00:29 Zakiya Norton: Hi, this is Zakiya Norton.
00:31 Somita Basu: And this is Somita Basu.
00:32 ZN: We are here today to talk about Prince. As we know we lost a great legend this past weekend, and the universe has been crying “Purple Rain” ever since. And we’re here to talk about his impact on us and more specifically, his alleged lack of an estate plan. And Somita actually has a great story about her first interaction with Prince.
00:55 SB: Well, I grew up as a very deprived child, with no TV in my room, and no stereo, and I was not allowed to go see Purple Rain in the theater. So I had to wait until it came on TV. And by that time, I had a tiny little, I don’t know, eight-inch black and white TV that was 50 pounds, hiding in my basement, that I would sneak up into my bedroom to watch whatever was on TV. So I was actually watching “Purple Rain” on this little bootleg black and white television from circa 1970. And I was fascinated, I loved it, I’ve seen that movie so many times as it was on reruns on television back in the 80s and 90s. And it wasn’t until much later, I never saw the movie with the advent of new technology, and it wasn’t until much later that I actually had a conversation with somebody who pointed out that they thought it was really interesting that everything in the movie was purple. And I said, “Wait, what?”
01:58 SB: Because I saw it on black and white television, it totally escaped me that there was a theme of purple in the movie “Purple Rain.”
02:03 ZN: Right. Did you have the, “Oh! Purple Rain.”
02:07 SB: Now, it makes sense. Why would he call it “Purple Rain?” Now, it makes sense. Prince, his music has had a pretty large role in my life, and it was a big loss this past week when he passed away.
02:20 ZN: Oh absolutely. And my older brother, Craig, is one of the biggest Prince fans I think you’ve ever seen. We would go to Las Vegas and just see the Prince impersonator, and he would be the biggest groupie you’ve ever seen in the audience, just screaming and clapping, and I mean having a blast. And of course, he’s seen him live a million times. So I think we’re all kind of collectively just at a loss of what to do, losing such a great legend.
02:46 SB: Yeah, so unfortunately, not only did the world lose a music icon, but I think Prince’s family, if what rumors have been thrown around in the press are true, it seems that he may have died without any sort of an estate plan, or without a will, which should be surprising, but it’s actually not. It’s actually a pretty common thing for artists and people of even that level of fame not to think about these kinds of things. Also, he may have had an upbringing or background which kind of dissuaded him from dealing with these types of issues. But at the end of the day, it’s his family that’s gonna go through a tough time.
03:28 ZN: Right. Yeah, you’re right. I mean a lot of people, no matter what background, just have a hard time dealing with making an estate plan and talking about what’s gonna happen when they’re no longer here. And the tragedy of that is that once you do pass, you are no longer here, and it is your family who has to pick up the pieces and figure out what you would have wanted, and who gets what. And as you can imagine, that just leads to a lot of turmoil, and family relationships being torn apart unnecessarily.
03:56 SB: Yeah. And I think the thing that people forget about is that if you don’t have an estate plan, the state has one for you, and it’s possible…
04:05 ZN: You’re not gonna like it. [laughter]
04:06 SB: You’re not gonna like it. And I mean in all states, and this is true in all states, but definitely in California, and to a degree in Minnesota as well, it comes down to blood relationships. So if you are related by blood to somebody that you didn’t really like that much, they’re gonna get a portion of your estate if you didn’t have an estate plan.
04:27 ZN: Right. Now, didn’t we read that he sort of had some issues with some family members? I think he had quite a few siblings, is that right?
04:35 SB: Yeah, I think he has like six, six or seven is what I remember, that are full and half siblings through his dad. And there isn’t a lot of clarity really, he was a very private person. So there isn’t a lot of clarity on what his relationship was with them. But unfortunately, here’s the other sad thing, the privacy he craved in life is gonna go out of the window when he has to file everything in Probate Court, unless they can get an order to seal.
05:05 ZN: It’s kind of like the Wizard of Oz, we’re gonna get to see behind the curtain. That’s what happens when you die without an estate plan, a trust especially, in most States. We get to now see all the nitty gritty details, which is really sad, because he was so private. And I know his sister has sort of stepped up to the forefront, and is handling a lot of his affairs. But yeah, you’re right, the half sisters, brothers, they’re all gonna get a piece equally. There’s nothing anyone is going to able to do to stop that now.
05:33 SB: Right, especially, if it’s true that he really doesn’t have anything, then this is going to be a long, expensive, and messy…
05:39 ZN: Protracted.
05:40 SB: Yes, kind of process, even if all of the siblings have the best of intentions, we assume that. We have seen in our practices that is almost never the case.
05:53 ZN: Yeah, once money gets involved, a lot of the niceties go out the window.
05:55 SB: That’s right, I mean they’re still litigating the Tupac estate. I mean that’s still an issue, and he died however many years ago. So these things get messy. So unfortunately, that’s gonna be a problem.
06:08 ZN: Yeah. So let’s talk about what are some solutions, what could Prince have done differently?
06:14 SB: Yeah. So I think at a bare minimum, I mean a will is something that he would have wanted to do, it would have at least said who gets what.
06:23 ZN: Right, given some direction to the family.
06:24 SB: Right. And so he would have been able to say, “I want this person to get this, or that, or not to have anything.” You can write people out even…
06:33 ZN: Disinherit, right.
06:34 SB: That’s right. And that would have been at least at the very, very basic level, the most basic thing he could have done, because there’s other things he could have done, too.
06:42 ZN: Right. And I think the next step would have been, especially for somebody with this level of income, and assets, and all his likeness and his music catalogue, which is endless, thank goodness for us, but a way to protect all of that and to decide who’s getting what, without all of us even knowing where everything was going, was to have a revocable trust. And that could have owned his rights to the music, it could have owned any property, any assets, any homes, all of those things, and he easily could have said, who’s gonna get what, where does he want it to go. I know he did a lot of philanthropy, he could have given a lot of those things to charity, all of that could have been handled directly through his trust.
07:25 SB: Right. And I think it’s something that maybe his advisors weren’t as aware of, but this would have preserved the privacy that he held so close and dear, and valued so much. That would have done that, which I think would have been important for somebody like him, as well as just made his wishes known to the people he wanted to know, that he wanted to give things to, and kept it private.
07:53 ZN: Right, yeah. And I have to believe that he would want a significant part of his estate to be going to charity, if it was up to him.
08:00 SB: Yeah, that’s right.
08:01 ZN: Yeah, that played a big role in what he did, and a lot of that is coming to light now. He didn’t even want any of that publicized while he was alive. So we’re learning more and more about all of the fantastic things he did, and even things here in the Silicon Valley for people in Oakland, a lot of people have solar panels on their roof now, because of Prince. Yeah, and they didn’t even know.
08:17 SB: Yeah, that’s a good point. He probably would have given quite a bit of money to charity.
08:21 ZN: Oh, I think so.
08:21 SB: And now those charitable organizations are gonna miss out if he doesn’t have anything.
08:25 ZN: That’s right. They’re out of luck.
08:27 SB: So I think at the end of the day, the lesson to be learned is even famous people can make these kind of basic mistakes of not having a basic estate plan. So you can do yourself one better, do your family better, and have one in place. So think about doing an estate plan if you don’t have one. If you did it 20 years ago, maybe have somebody look at it. You can contact us anytime. And until then, we will be replaying our “Purple Rain.”
08:57 ZN: On an endless loop.
08:57 SB: On an endless loop until our next podcast. Talk to you soon, and take care.
09:04 S1: Thanks for listening to Estate of Mind. Join Zakiya Norton and Somita Basu on the next podcast discussing the latest estate planning, probate related news and observations. You can find the full transcript of this podcast on our website at www.nortonbasu.com. None of this content should be construed as legal advice. As always, consult your lawyer.