Livens & Reed, PLLC

Estate administration for Prince continues with muddled issues

Another near catastrophe in the saga of the estate of deceased superstar Prince has emerged. The probate procedures in that litigious estate will generally be the same as they would be in Texas, so that The estate administration problems regarding Prince's estate can be instructive. The problems are all because Prince did not engage in estate planning and did not even make a will to guide the disposition of his assets.

In such cases, the court will hear contested matters and decide per the evidence and the applicable law. This will apparently be done regarding the issue of one deceased individual, Duane J. Nelson Sr., and his heirs. Prince reportedly referred to Duane as his brother when they were both alive. Now, Duane's heirs are in court asking for distribution of Duane's share to them.

The estate is worth in the $300 million range, but upcoming tax obligations may make it considerably lower. However, the estate may enjoy receiving royalties and other intellectual property proceeds for years to come. This may be an exciting new reality for Duane's heirs. The only hitch is that Prince and Duane may have had no blood ties at all.

It has taken the court months to weed through a parade of would-be heirs. The court rejected several of them, but approved six shares, one to Prince's full sister and one each to his five half-siblings. The Duane Nelson heirs are claiming that John Nelson, Prince's late father, always referred to and treated Duane as his son. There may be no actual proof that Duane was John's son, but John told others that this was the case.

In addition, Prince reportedly may have accepted Duane as his brother. It is a novel argument but somewhat convincing under the totality of the circumstances. Can someone without a blood relationship be deemed to be a full-fledged family member? Generally, under Texas law and the law of all other states, there must be a genetic relationship or an adoption to establish a familial identity. If Duane's heirs prevail, it will be fascinating to read the court's legal justifications for its ruling in this epic estate administration matter. 

Source:, "Family of Prince's 'Brother' Duane Nelson Sr. Fights for Piece of $300M Estate", Keith Harris, Oct. 21, 2016

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