People learn from experience, by watching others. When the musician Prince died without a will last year, it kicked off an intense and lengthy probate process. His estate is worth an estimated $100 to $300 million. The lack of estate planning surprised everyone, considering the artist's level of control over his music during his career.
If you die without a will in New York, probate court will decide who gets your estate. Depending on your family, this is often a spouse, children or siblings. While Prince died in Minnesota, a similar system appointed as his sister and five half-siblings as his heirs.
A long time until resolution
With such a valuable estate, containing real estate, music, videos and artwork, it will take years to resolve the overall matter--up to fourteen years, according to the court-appointed estate administrator, Comerica Bank & Trust. Comerica is at the heart of a new issue in the case. Three of the six heirs filed a petition to remove Comerica from its role in late October.
When heirs distrust the administrator
The heirs claim that Comerica is mismanaging the estate and has diminished the overall value by moving recordings and failing to archive materials. They are also frustrated by mounting legal fees and decisions Comerica has made without consulting the heirs.
In essence, the heirs claim that Comerica is damaging the estate when it should be acting in its best interests. In addition to sharing Prince's personal property with loved ones, there are also archives related to his artistic work that hold additional value: biography rights, unreleased music and video, and more. The heirs say these are being mismanaged.
Questioning motives and capability
While a strong estate plan could have reduced the challenges that Prince's heirs face, the probate process allows for a thorough review of assets before any estate is final. In probate, citizens can contest a decision when there is a valid complaint about the motives of an heir or administrator.
While everyone is bound by the same laws, every estate has distinct property that warrants a unique ruling. If it feels like probate has taken a wrong turn, an experienced attorney can review the situation to see what steps you can take to protect the estate of a loved one.