Tyka Nelson, Prince’s sister, filed documents in Minnesota probate court stating that Prince, born Prince Rogers Nelson, died without children, spouse or surviving parents, and with no known will. The petition filed by Ms. Nelson lists five half-siblings as heirs. Half-siblings are treated the same as full siblings under Minnesota law.
Each state has its own laws regarding what is known as “intestate succession.” When a person dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate, and state laws determine who will inherit their property. In New York, these rules are set forth in the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law. When a person who had a spouse but no children dies without a will in New York, the spouse inherits the whole estate. If they had children but no spouse, then the children receive everything. If the person dies with a spouse and children, then the spouse receives the first $50,000 plus half of what is left, and the children inherit everything else. If the person dies without a spouse or children, but living parents, then the parents inherit everything. Finally, if the person dies with siblings, but no spouse, children or living parents, then the siblings receive the whole estate. New York, like Minnesota, treats half-siblings the same as full siblings.
When a person fails to create a proper estate plan, including a will and any appropriate trusts, they lose the ability to have their estate distributed according to their wishes, and the laws of intestate succession will govern the distribution of their estate. Dying without a will can also cause complications for a person’s heirs. The case of Prince is an example, as he had taken personal control of the valuable copyrights for his songs, negotiated his own favorable publishing contracts, and kept a “vault” of unreleased recordings. The value of Prince’s estate may be affected by how it is managed, and that may depend on the outcome of legal proceedings. The lack of a will may mean that a legal dispute over his estate is more likely.