Prince, parentage laws, probate,

ClearCast Episode 10: Parentage & The Prince Estate’s Tricky Probate Matters

[Editor’s Note]

Welcome to today’s ClearCast!

I don’t know about you, but thought the world of Prince and so saddened to see him pass away last April.

You may not believe this, but the man worth between $100-300 million dollars didn’t even have a will, let alone an estate plan.

As you guess with an intestate estate of this size, there have been complications. Namely: two women have come forward purporting to be Prince’s niece and grandniece, asking for their share of the estate.

The hearing in Minnesota is scheduled for today. We get you all prepared. Plus, we will give you a sense of how this would work out in Nevada.

Thanks for watching.

-Brian

[End Note]

 

[End Note]

The Prince Estate: When Parentage and Probate Laws Mix

Transcript:

Jordan Flake: Hi. I’m Jordan Flake, and I’m an attorney with Clear Counsel Law Group. Welcome to another ClearCast. I’m here with my partner, Jonathan Barlow. He’s also a expert in the field of probate and trust disputes and litigation. Back in the news this week is Prince, the musician who died of an overdose last April. Maybe you were a big fan. Basically there’s some really sticky probate issues that they’re dealing with off in Minnesota. He was a resident of Minnesota. Essentially, what I understand from the situation is that Prince didn’t have any surviving children or parents.

Jonathan Barlow: Not married also.

Jordan Flake: Not married, and he passed away without a will, which means intestacy laws apply. Which in that case what would happen is it just goes equally to Prince’s brothers and sisters. However, if Prince has a predeceased brother or sister then that share would pass down to that brother or sister’s children. Basically we have a situation where two women, one claiming to Prince’s niece and another claiming to be Prince’s grandniece have come along and said, “Hey, our dad, Dwayne, was Prince’s brother. Dwayne passed away five years ago in 2011, and therefore we’re entitled to Dwayne’s share of the estate because he was Prince’s brother.” By the way, the estate is a pretty big estate. Rounding out possibly as high as, this is speculation, but possibly as high as 30 million dollars or even more. It’s not a small amount of money that we’re talking about here.

Jonathan Barlow: It’s worth fighting about.

Jordan Flake: It’s definitely worth fighting over. The niece and grandniece have come along and said, “Hey, listen. We’re entitled to this because Dwayne was Prince’s brother, and he’s predeceased Prince, and this is the share.” What are the complications here?

Jonathan Barlow: Well, it all sounds very reasonable.

Jordan Flake: It sounds great.

Jonathan Barlow: All things being equal the niece and grandniece would be exactly right. They would be entitled to that one share. The complication comes in because Prince’s other siblings are saying that Dwayne, who you mentioned, the father of this niece and grandniece … That Dwayne was not Prince’s biological sibling, nor he was Prince’s adopted sibling. Meaning, Prince’s parents did not legally adopt Duane, and Duane was not their biological child.

Jordan Flake: Duane could’ve just been a guy.

Jonathan Barlow: Duane was just some guy.

Jordan Flake: Just some guy …

Jonathan Barlow: Sorry, Duane.

Jordan Flake: … who as young, little bundle of joy just showed up in Prince’s family’s household. Is that what happened?

Jonathan Barlow: Something like that. I wish we had known. Maybe Prince wrote a song about this. I don’t know.

Jordan Flake: “Raspberry Beret“, that’s what it was referring to.

Jonathan Barlow: Dwayne’s daughter and his then granddaughter, the niece and grandniece of Prince, are saying, “Hold on a minute aunts and uncles. We think you’re aunts and uncles even though you don’t think we’re nieces of yours.” They’re saying, “Hey, wait a minute. Dwayne’s and Prince’s father brought Dwayne into his house,” essentially that’s what they’re saying. Brought him into his house, treated him like his child, raised him as his child, always treated him as a child, and for all purposes he was never treated as if he wasn’t. In fact, even Prince himself later in life and more recent years had acknowledged Dwayne as a half-brother or brother of some sort.

Jordan Flake: Prince’s dad was saying, “Hey, these are my kids. This is Prince over here. He’s really famous. This is my son, Dwayne. He’s okay.” I’m kind of the Dwayne of the family, by the way, in my own family, but anyway …

Jonathan Barlow: We all have one of those.

Jordan Flake: We all have a Dwayne in our family. Basically Prince’s dad was saying, “Yeah, Dwayne is my son.” To what extent is that a legal hook?

Jonathan Barlow: It’s interesting. Most states have adopted this law called the Uniform Parentage Act, and we have that here in Nevada, which gives us an interesting interplay in what’s going on in Minnesota and Prince’s estate right now. The Uniform Parentage Act basically says, in a very short way to say, just as Prince’s father had done with Dwayne, if you bring a child into your house and treat that child as your child, even if you don’t adopt them, even if it’s not your biological child, and you hold them out to the whole world as your child, and for all purposes treat them as you child the law will say that person is that person’s legal child for all purposes. Including for inheritance. Including for child support. Any purpose of establishing parentage it will establish that, so what’s the niece and grandniece are saying is that parentage has already been established.

There was actually any interesting case in Nevada just last year in 2015 that dealt with the Uniform Parentage Act in a probate proceeding. Similar to this situation occurred a woman named Joyce was raised by her parents. Robert was her dad, but it sounds like it was never really clear whether Joyce was his biological child. On Joyce’s birth certificate did list Robert as her father, but apparently it was not clear. When Robert died Joyce’s, same thing, her aunts and uncles, came along and said, “No. Everyone knows Joyce is not Robert’s biological child. Everyone knows that Robert did not adopt her, and so if we want Joyce wants to claim something she’s got to have a DNA test.” Essentially they wanted to exhume Robert and force a DNA test, which is horrible in itself to think that they would do something like that.

Anyway, the Nevada Supreme Court came along and said, “No, no, no. Sorry, under the Uniform Parentage Act,” that law, the Uniform Parentage Act, “it says that if you’re going to challenge somebody’s paternity that is established in this way you have to do it within three years after that person turns 18 years old.”

Jordan Flake: In application to the Prince case, they would’ve had to challenge Dwayne’s being Prince’s father’s son, and also Prince’s brother by the time he was 21?

Jonathan Barlow: Essentially. That’s correct.

Jordan Flake: That would’ve been back in the ’60s, or ’70s, or whenever it was.

Jonathan Barlow: Sometime a long time ago, and so the law says-

Jordan Flake: Otherwise it’s conclusively established?

Jonathan Barlow: It’s done. In fact, those third parties, the aunts and uncles, the brothers and sisters, whoever it is they are legally prohibited, they’re barred from contesting that paternity that has been established under the Uniform Parentage Act.

Jordan Flake: Is the niece and grandniece going to win in Minnesota then?

Jonathan Barlow: That’s a good question. We never predict, right?

Jordan Flake: Right. Yeah, we don’t.

Jonathan Barlow: Minnesota’s going to do what Minnesota does, but interestingly the Nevada case, the Nevada Supreme Court case last year cited to a case that happened in Minnesota several years ago.

Jordan Flake: I’m sure there’s not a lot of case law anywhere in the country on this type of topic.

Jonathan Barlow: Really unique interplay of parentage in probate. If they follow what the Nevada Supreme Court said they’re going to have a very hard time disproving that this niece and grandniece are not entitled to inheritance.

Jordan Flake: Wow.

Jonathan Barlow: They’re likely going to … Without knowing Minnesota law really closely myself, if I was to guess they’re going to receive a share Prince’s estate.

Jordan Flake: I would love it if we could get ahold of one of the attorneys in this matter to come and smack us down, and tell us why we’re wrong. We may be. If anybody out there knows. This is kind of interesting-

Jonathan Barlow: Which reminds me, I have a greeting card that I got from Prince a couple years ago. It said, “Hey, brother.” I think I need to show up at hearing on Friday and see.

Jordan Flake: He probably has a song where he says, “You’re all my brothers and sisters,” or something like that.

Jonathan Barlow: He was talking about us.

Jordan Flake: He was talking about us, exactly. This is also interesting because if you’re out there in the world right now and you suspect that your parents are holding out a non-biological sibling/child as an actual child then you have to get on top of that business before that individual turns 21.

Jonathan Barlow: It really sets up a really strange circumstance where essentially essential siblings that have been raised together-

Jordan Flake: “We’re the real siblings.”

Jonathan Barlow: That’s right.

Jordan Flake: They get together and they say, “You’re a fake sibling. We’re going to get a court order,” or what? How do they …

Jonathan Barlow: That’s theoretically what would happen. When that child turns 18 or 19 you can throw them into court to disprove that they have parents.

Jordan Flake: Do you see what a weird law this is? Because who is going to actually come along and challenge that unless there’s a death in the interim.

Jonathan Barlow: Right, which is very rare.

Jordan Flake: Which would be very, very rare, so it’s a very bizarre law, but this is why we enjoy being probate attorneys. We enjoy being estate planning attorneys. We love it when stories like Prince hit the national media because as always it highlights the need very good estate planning.

Prince was worth 30 million dollars, speculatively. He could’ve afforded an attorney to prepare a simple estate plan.

Jonathan Barlow: Even a simple will.

Jordan Flake: Even a simple will would’ve clarified.

Jonathan Barlow: A $99.00 will could’ve solved this whole thing. For all we know Prince would’ve wanted Dwayne’s children to receive.

Jordan Flake: Right. Absolutely.

He may have wanted that. In any event, as we always do, we invite you to leave any thoughts, or comments, or additional information in the comments section, or on our Facebook, wherever we post this video.

Thank you so much for joining us.