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Mystery Haunts Prince’s Intestate Death: What to Do with the Vault?

The death of the iconic singer Prince at age 57 stunned his legions of fans, who were naturally upset about losing such a talented contributor to contemporary music. But, ironically, those fans may soon hear more of the artist’s music than if he had lived, all because Prince failed to execute a will.

Prince’s wealth is estimated at about $300 million. But 56 percent of that will be lost to taxes: the federal estate tax rate is 40 percent, and the Minnesota rate is 16 percent. That leaves $132 million for Prince’s heirs. But who are they? Since Prince did not leave a will, his estate passes by the inheritance laws of his home state, Minnesota, which has adopted the Uniform Probate Code, or UPC. He had no wife or children, so his estate goes to his sister and his half-siblings, whom the UPC treats equally.

Of course, if Prince had made an estate plan, he could have shielded some of his wealth from estate taxes and preserved more wealth for his heirs. Additionally, he could have granted bequests to close friends and associates who are not in line to inherit, and to charitable causes he believed in. Finally, he could have prevented the contentious litigation that is bound to result as legal heirs stake their claims to various assets.

But, if Prince’s lack of planning has caused confusion, frustration, and hurt feelings among those who knew him best, it might ultimately benefit his fans. According to sources close to Prince, his Paisley Park mansion contains a vault full of unreleased music he produced over a period of years. This is not a metaphorical vault. It is an actual floor-to-ceiling bank vault with a steel door, a time lock, and a large, spinning handle. Such a device strongly suggests that the artist never intended to release any of the music entombed within to the general public. But, because he did not leave a will, he no longer has any say in the matter. That music will ultimately pass to his heirs, who might be tempted to market it, at least to recoup some of the $168 million they lost to estate taxes.

To learn how you can spare your heirs confusion over your estate, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney at the Charles Law Offices.

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