As many of you are aware, Prince Rogers Nelson, or “Prince”, died last week. As a purveyor of prodigious talent, Prince parlayed his purple genius into numerous number-one songs and albums, Grammys, and an Oscar. Don’t think he had the pedigree? At a minimum, watch and listen to Prince play the guitar in this video. Prince embodied uniqueness unrivaled. However, in certain aspects, Prince was not unique. Like so many people before him, Prince died without a will.
In the United States, approximately 64 percent of Americans don’t have wills, and 51 percent of Americans age 55 to 64 don’t have wills. In addition to the throngs of people living and dying without a will, Prince joins other prominent figures of pop culture dying without a will: Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Stieg Larsson, Barry White, Sonny Bono, and Howard Hughes.
Dying without a will is also known as dying “intestate.” Minnesota, home to Paisley Park and his purpleness, has laws describing the process for handling an intestate estate. Prince’s sister has begun the probate process in Minnesota by filing probate documents in Carver County, Minnesota District Court. The Minnesota court system and Minnesota laws will determine who shall be the personal representative or executor of the estate and who shall inherit Prince’s property.
But what if Prince Rogers Nelson had lived and died in North Dakota? What if Paisley Park was Paisley Park River? What if purifying oneself in Lake Minnetonka was actually purifying oneself in Lake Metigoshe? Have no fear! North Dakota, like Minnesota, has laws that dictate how to distribute assets from an intestate estate. These laws are found in the North Dakota Century Code chapter 30.1-04.
If Prince and his $300 million estate resided in North Dakota, his estate would most likely go to his siblings. On a basic level, intestate estates pass from the decedent to the following persons in order: 1) Spouse; 2) Children or descendants; 3) Parents; 4) Siblings; 5) Grandparents; 6) Other family, or 7) the State of North Dakota. There are exceptions and specifics to each level of decedent’s heirs, but that is the general distribution order.
At the time of Prince’s death, Prince did not have a surviving spouse, any surviving children or grandchildren, and no surviving parents. Prince’s next of kin is his sister, Tyka Nelson, and his six half-siblings, John Nelson, Norrine Nelson, Sharon Nelson, Alfred Jackson, Omar Baker, and Lorna Nelson (deceased). Assuming that Prince resided in North Dakota and the persons listed are Prince’s next of kin, N.D.C.C 30.1-04-03(3) would control, and Prince’s estate will go to Prince’s sibling and half-siblings (half-siblings are treated the same as siblings under North Dakota law, as provided in N.D.C.C. 30.1-04-07).
Prince lived by being himself, being proud of where he was from, and using his talents to the best of his ability. These are ideals to adopt and live by. However, Prince died intestate, and in this one instance I say: DON’T BE LIKE PRINCE! Wills are extremely important documents that allow you to (1) Name the people who are to receive your assets; (2) direct how these people are to receive your assets; (3) name the guardian of your minor children, if any; and (4) name the person who administers your estate. If you don’t do this, the State decides for you.
The most practical reason to have a will is the unpredictable nature of death. Death is a very hard topic to digest, let alone discuss. Having a will allows you to plan for your death, provide peace of mind to you and your loved ones, and remove some of the burden and heartache your loved ones will experience after your death. As an attorney in this field, I can tell you that fights do occur, people do not get along, and relationships are ruined due to a lack of good estate planning. Don’t let that happen to you or your family.
If you have any questions regarding wills or other estate planning documents, we welcome your call. And as always, if you have general questions about estate planning, including probate, health care directives, living wills, wills, trusts, power of attorney, and asset protection, contact our Estate Planning Team by calling 701-297-2890 or send us an email below.
The information contained in this article and on this website is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.