The decision felt at once momentous and anticlimactic.
On Friday, Judge Kevin W. Eide, the Carver County District Judge who since last April has been handling Minnesota's biggest and messiest probate case, ruled that Prince officially died without a will, and that Prince's six siblings were his official heirs.
If you've been following this estate settlement even the tiniest bit, you're likely to let loose a “duh” longer than the closing guitar solo to “Purple Rain.” No one has even hinted that Prince left a will behind, and the six family members the court recognized have been his presumed heirs all along: his sister Tyka Nelson and his half-siblings Omarr Baker, Alfred Jackson, John L. Nelson, Norrine Nelson, and Sharon Nelson.
But now it's official, and reporters who've been referring to the Prince siblings as “presumptive” or “non-excluded” heirs can now just say “heirs,” which saves everyone some time. You probably have some questions about what else has changed, so let's take those one by one.
So now the heirs get Prince's money?
Well, not now. Eventually. Probably. The judge said he wouldn't begin distributing Prince's assets without a formal order, and that he wouldn't divvy up the estate in a way that would harm any would-be heirs whose claims he denied and who are now pursuing appeals in higher courts.
You mean there are still appeals going on?
Plenty. The most notable appeal is being pursued by Brianna and Victoria Nelson, the daughter and granddaughter of Prince pal Duane Nelson. Prince referred to Duane as his brother at times, and Prince's father John apparently referred to Duane as his son.
But that wasn't enough to establish a family relationship between Duane and Prince, Judge Eide said, and so Brianna and Victoria had no claim against the estate. Brianna and Victoria are arguing to the Minnesota Court of Appeals that Judge Eide misinterpreted state probate law. (A little more background on this claim here.)
If this appeal, or any other, is successful, of course, there would be challenges to the probate court's determination of heirs.
But wait, I'm Prince's son!
Sure, sure, we've all heard that one before. (Also, that's not a question.) But ok, let's say you -- unlike the countless would-be relations who stepped forth in the past 13 months -- offer convincing genetic and documentary evidence that Prince left your mom a little special something to remember him by. You have a year to step forward… if, that is, you just learned that Prince was your dad, or you somehow haven't heard that Prince died. If you've just been procrastinating, tough luck.
By the way, how are the heirs getting along these days?
They seem to be divided into at least two camps. John, Sharon, and Norrine Nelson have been pushing for L. Londell McMillan to serve as their personal representative, and on Friday, Judge Eide approved their request. McMillan, a onetime Prince lawyer who previously negotiated several entertainment licensing deals on behalf of the estate, will act as liaison between those three heirs and Comerica Bank, the court-appointed estate administrator. But siblings Tyka Nelson and Omarr Baker do not like or trust McMillan, and they claim his activities in the past year haven't always been aboveboard.
What does the court have to say about McMillan's actions?
Also on Friday, the judge ruled that McMillan has to hand over all correspondence with any entertainment corporations -- record labels, licensing firms, and the like -- he may have negotiated with regarding Prince's assets over the past year. Much of the court's scrutiny is likely to focus on a contentious $31 million deal that would have allowed Universal Music Group to release some of Prince's back catalog. UMG now wants to tear that deal up, saying the estate's representatives lied about what rights they'd be paying for.
Sorry, those are all the questions we have time for today.