Will Prince’s Heirs Finally Get Some of His Estate?

The six-year legal battle over pop superstar Prince’s estate has ended, meaning the process of distributing the artist’s wealth could begin next month.
Princes Estate

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the IRS and the estate’s administrator, Comerica Bank & Trust, have agreed to value the late pop singer’s estate at $156.4 million. This is a number that Prince’s heirs have also accepted, says NBC News in its recent article entitled “Prince’s estate pegged at $156.4 million in final valuation.”

The valuation is much more than Comerica’s earlier $82.3 million appraisal. The IRS had valued the estate at $163.2 million in 2020.

Prince, who died of a fentanyl overdose in 2016, failed to write a will. Since then, lawyers and consultants have been paid tens of millions of dollars to administer his estate and come up with a plan for its distribution. Two of Prince’s six sibling heirs, Alfred Jackson and John R. Nelson, have since died. Two others are in their 80s.

“It has been a long six years,” L. Londell McMillan, an attorney for three of Prince’s siblings, said at a hearing recently in Carver County District Court in southern Minnesota.

The singer’s estate will ultimately be evenly divided between a well-funded New York music company — Primary Wave — and the three oldest of his six heirs or their families.

The IRS and Comerica settled the real-estate portion of Prince’s estate last spring. However, the more difficult job was in valuing intangible assets, such as the rights to Prince’s music. That wasn’t completed until October. As part of the deal, the IRS dropped a $6.4 million “accuracy-related penalty” it had imposed on the estate. The Minnesota Department of Revenue, which agreed on the estate’s valuation, also has dropped an accuracy penalty.

Taxes on Prince’s estate and fortune will run into the tens of millions of dollars. Just over $5 million of Prince’s estate will be exempted from taxes under federal law, but for the remainder, the tax rate is 40%. In Minnesota, the first $3 million is tax-exempt. After that, much of Prince’s estate will likely be taxed at 16%.

In mid-2020, Comerica sued the IRS in U.S. Tax Court, alleging that its calculations of the estate’s value were full of mistakes. A tax trial set for March in St. Paul has been canceled, in light of the settlement.

Comerica, in a court filing Friday, said that while the IRS settlement was “fair and reasonable,” it believes it would have “prevailed” in the tax court case. Comerica said it told Prince’s heirs that if lowering estate taxes was their “primary interest,” they should continue pressing the IRS and proceed to trial if need be.

“Instead, the members of the heir group have uniformly communicated to (Comerica) their strong desire that the estate settle with the taxing authorities,” the filing said.

Reference: NBC News (Jan. 18, 2022) “Prince’s estate pegged at $156.4 million in final valuation”

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