'It's a real mess that he left behind' - Prince's siblings appear in court for first hearing on his estate
Five of Prince's six surviving siblings appeared in court on Monday for the first hearing to start sorting out an estate certain to be worth millions, a task complicated because the star musician is not known to have left a will.
In a hearing that lasted a little over 12 minutes, Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide formalised his appointment last week of Bremer Trust to handle matters involving the estate of Prince, who died suddenly last month aged 57.
Prince's sister, Tyka Nelson, requested the appointment so that the company can manage Prince's estate until an executor is named.
Mr Eide asked the packed courtroom whether anyone knew of a will, and the courtroom was silent. Lawyers for Bremer Trust said they had not found one but would keep looking.
"The court is not finding that there is no will, but that no will has yet been found," the judge said.
The hearing did not address how long the estate may take to settle or how much it is worth.
His property holdings alone in Minnesota, including his Paisley Park studios in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen, were worth about 27 million US dollars, but music industry experts say his earnings after death are likely to be far more.
Tyka Nelson is Prince's only full sibling. Four half-siblings - Alfred Jackson, Norrine Nelson, Sharon Nelson and Omarr Baker - were present. A fifth, John Nelson, did not attend.
Norrine Nelson and Sharon Nelson exchanged a hug in the courtroom, and family members chatted quietly. Tyka Nelson sat at a table between her two lawyers, while the four others sat side-by-side in the well, just behind their lawyers. None of the siblings commented afterwards.
Frank Wheaton, a lawyer for Alfred Jackson, said afterwards that the siblings were co-operating in settling the estate.
"Everyone is in full accord," he said.
Even if all the heirs really are in agreement, it is going to take a long time to settle the estate, Judith Younger, a University of Minnesota law professor who is not involved in the case, told The Associated Press.
Other claimants are likely to come forward, any disagreements with tax authorities over the value of the estate could result in litigation, and Minnesota courts have not settled yet whether the rights to someone's likeness, such as Prince's, can be inherited.
"It a real mess that he left behind," she said.
It is also possible that a will could turn up and that it could lead to fights over its validity, Ms Younger said.
"I find it so hard to believe," Ms Younger said, noting how careful Prince was to keep control of his music and other business affairs. "How can there not be a will?"
Susan Link, a Minneapolis estate lawyer not involved in the case, said she does not think any of the lawyers involved will "fan the fire" of any discord among the siblings and that their decision last week to sit the siblings down together was a good move. If the siblings cannot agree, the personal representative will be going to court a lot, she said.
A law enforcement official said investigators are looking into whether Prince, who was found dead at his home on April 21, died from an overdose and whether a doctor was prescribing him drugs in the weeks beforehand.
Mr Eide did not set a date for future proceedings. But he noted the intense interest in the case, as reflected by the throng of media and lawyers inside and outside what would normally be a quiet suburban courtroom.
"We're not used to this much notoriety in Carver County," the judge said.