Haunting Estate Planning Errors: The Horror of Paisley Park

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For the Halloween episode of Motley Fool Answers, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp engage in a spirited discussion of the horrors some folks have visited upon their families' finances from the afterlife by making big mistakes in estate planning.

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In this segment, they consider the sorrowful saga of Prince, who died in 2016 with no will, having done no estate planning whatsoever. And with mansions, millions, and deep musical catalog to distribute, hundreds of people are coming out of the woodwork, and it's all going to get fought out for years in court.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Oct. 31, 2017.

Alison Southwick: The first horror story of estate planning is the The Ghost of Paisley Park. The lack of planning haunts his legacy forever, ever, ever.

Robert Brokamp: Well, as we're talking about [as you might have guessed], Prince, who died in 2016. Officially known as Prince Rogers Nelson because Prince Rogers was his dad's stage name as a jazz musician.

Southwick: Oh, I didn't know that.

Brokamp: So now you know. Prince died in 2016 very tragically. Did not have a will. No estate planning whatsoever.

Southwick: It's just mind-boggling that he has all these managers and agents that let him get away with that.

Brokamp: When you look at the list of famous or smart people who have died without a will, it's quite amazing. From Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King to Sonny Bono and Jimi Hendrix, they all died without any estate planning.

What happened in Prince's case? First of all, what happens is you look for any heirs. He had one full sister...

Southwick: Not a half-sister?

Brokamp: What's the proper term for that? I mean, you call someone your half-brother or your half-sister, but do you call someone else your full brother? Your full sister?

Rick Engdahl: Sister. Just plain sister.

Brokamp: Sister. He had a sister. He had a few half-siblings. But then tons of people come out of the woodwork claiming that they also are half-siblings. There's an inmate in Colorado who says that he is Prince's son because Prince slept with his mother back in the 1970s. One article I read said as many as 700 people have come out claiming some part of his estate.

Southwick: Wow!

Brokamp: So, what happens? First of all, the court has to [appoint] an administrator or executor of the estate. In this case they named a trust in Minnesota that had done some business dealings with Prince, but then all of this stuff is tied up in court for years until it all gets decided.

Another thing was a lot of this stuff was locked away in a vault in Prince's Paisley Park. He was the only one who had the combination, so the bank that took over the estate had to actually drill through the vault to take inventory of everything that was owned. Recently that was switched to another bank and that bank said, "You know what? That vault is not actually in great shape," so they're having all the stuff that's in the vault moved to Los Angeles to another company that specializes in storing this type of stuff.

Two of the half-siblings are very unhappy about this, but because Prince didn't set all this out officially and legally as to who makes those decisions, they're just going to have to fight it out in the courts.

Southwick: It's crazy that Prince made so much baby-making music, but he didn't make any babies. That we know of.

Brokamp: That we know of. NPR had a great headline on the first-year anniversary of his death. The headline was, Prince's Posthumous Year in Business Was Full of Weirdos and Chaos. That's what happens when you don't have any estate planning.

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