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What the future holds for Prince’s estate

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03 May What the future holds for Prince’s estate

When the world lost David Bowie in January, a proverbial knife plunged into hearts all over the globe. When Prince passed just months later, the blade was twisted before the wound could heal. While both Bowie and Prince formed iconic identities of their own, both pushed the boundaries to become more than just musical forces and etched their legacies into the history books as two of world’s most influential cultural icons.

Prince was famously protective of his intellectual property, a philosophy that permeated his decorated career and life in general. In a dispute with Warner Bros. Records during the 1990s, the eclectic pop star changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and begun referring to himself as “slave” or “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince”.

By the time of his death, Prince had built up a catalogue of unreleased music in his basement—locking it behind a thick vault door to which only he had the code. The estimated value of this catalogue varies, but it could reach a staggering nine-figure sum and add to the already extraordinary worth of his entire estate.

Prince was twice divorced, had no children and did not leave a will behind to name any heirs to his estate, which has fuelled speculation over how the following months (or even years) will play out. Tyka Nelson, his younger sister, and five of his half-siblings are the closest family members of the enigmatic singer-songwriter and have begun the daunting task of tackling the financial ramifications of their brother’s death.

even if a will is found and clearly stipulates the wishes of the deceased, unexpected deaths of celebrities often result in years of deliberation over the estate. Part of the complication can lie in how the worth of a name, image and legacy can be legally interpreted, since it can be used for profit from things like merchandise and posthumous licensing deals.

Since the estate will be subject to tax, this often results in extensive legal battles between heirs and tax authorities. On top of that, Prince’s siblings will have to weather a storm of claims for the cultural icon’s fortune from many individuals claiming to be his children. This means that even if Prince’s heirs can avoid an internal feud, they are still likely to face a long and exhausting process to settle the estate.

The world will be watching keenly, as it may impact the release of any music from Prince’s extensive private catalogue. Just to add to the complication, record sales have predictably skyrocketed since the death of one of music’s greatest enigmas and may continue to rise if any previously unreleased music is made public.

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