CHASKA, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota judge overseeing Prince’s estate will wait for appeals to be exhausted before making a final determination on who will inherit a fortune that could be worth around $200 million, he said at a hearing Thursday.
But Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide also made it clear the late superstar’s six confirmed siblings are the likely heirs. Prince left no known will when he died in April of a painkiller overdose. The judge already has rejected claims from several other people to be Prince’s child, sibling or wife.
“The court cannot make a determination of who the heirs are until these appeals are exhausted,” Eide said. That process typically takes several months or more.
Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, and his five half-siblings also want Comerica Bank and Trust to take over running the estate from temporary special administrator Bremer Trust. Attorneys for the two institutions said they expect a handover at the end of the month.
Eide also heard testimony but did not immediately rule on whether he should appoint an individual as a “co-personal representative,” or co-executor, to act in part as a go-between Prince’s siblings and Comerica. Both candidates were Prince insiders.
Prince’s four older half-siblings, Sharon, Norrine and John Nelson, and Alfred Jackson, want entertainment lawyer L. Londell McMillan, who served the musician for 13 years as his attorney, adviser and friend. He helped extricate Prince from his contract with Warner Bros. in the days when Prince was writing “slave” on his cheek and dropped his name in favor of an unpronounceable symbol. McMillian also has represented Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, and is currently overseeing Prince’s entertainment assets.
Tyka Nelson and his younger half brother, Omarr Baker, want Van Jones, a former Bay Area civil rights lawyer and White House official who promoted green and tech jobs for inner-city youth. Jones, who also is a CNN commentator, told the court how he ran Prince’s philanthropic endeavors for nine years, saying he has a talent for building teams and that overcoming distrust among the siblings would take hard work.
The Minneapolls Star Tribune reported that Nelson and Baker are alleging that McMillan is using the estate to enrich himself. They report:
Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, and half-brother Omarr Baker have filed objections to the proposed appointment of McMillan, who has been acting as a special adviser to Bremer Trust, the outgoing special administrator appointed by the court after Prince’s accidental death from an overdose of painkillers in April.
Because Prince left no will, Tyka Nelson, and his half-siblings, Baker, Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson, John Nelson and Alfred Jackson, are likely heirs to his fortune, which has been estimated at between $100 million and $300 million before taxes, which are expected to claim roughly half. Much of the value remains to be determined.
Eide said pending appeals were holding up his final designation of heirs. He closed the courtroom to observers to discuss financial matters.
Sharon Nelson endorsed McMillan, saying he would communicate with the family and brings music industry knowledge the estate would need moving forward. She said Bremer, whose involvement in the Prince estate will end Jan. 31, didn’t go an adequate job communicating with the potential heirs.
McMillan talked about his experience with other musicians and his 13-year relationship with Prince, helping him get out of a record contract with Warner Bros.
“Prince was a loving, easy person to work with,” McMillan said. “Unless you went against his will, which drove his deals.”
Jones testified about his own relationship with Prince and how he would work to unify the heirs. He put together the team that got Prince his original master recordings and publishing rights for his Warner Bros. material, and quietly helped him with the artist’s philanthropic efforts.
“I knew Prince’s special sauce, which is to say I knew how he did business,” Jones said. “This is the first time that I’ve even spoken publicly about being involved in the estate case.”
Court filings suggest the estate is worth around $200 million. The estate faces a Jan. 21 tax filing deadline. Federal and state estate taxes are expected to gobble up about half the value, although the estate can pay over time.
Noting those frictions, Eide said he’ll name a co-personal representative only if he thinks that person will help resolve the case as soon as possible.
“The court is not looking for someone who is going to seek headlines for themselves,” he said.