Judge says no hurry in determining Prince claims
A Minnesota judge overseeing the legal proceedings surrounding Prince's estate said Monday there will be no quick decisions on who should be allowed to inherit from the late megastar.
Prince died in late April of an accidental drug overdose, with no known will or children. A sister and five half-siblings are in line to inherit, with several others claiming a tie to the performer.
While attorneys for Tyka Nelson, Prince's sister, and others pushed for a quick resolution to establish control of an estate estimated at $300 million or more, the court first needs to set ground rules for which claimants can be considered.
Noting the complexity of claims and parentage law, Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide said he may forward his eventual decision to an appellate court for immediate review, drawing out the process even longer.
"This case is perhaps unique in the state of Minnesota," he said. "I want to do it right because it's important to a lot of people."
The decision on Prince's heirs will determine not just who gets Prince's current wealth and Paisley Park recording studio but also who controls his music and the image he cultivated over four chart-topping decades. Industry experts have said his earnings potential after death is vast.
David Crosby of Bremer Trust, the court-appointed special administrator for Prince's estate, said they searched through "thousands of boxes" for a will but found nothing. With no living parents or children, siblings are next in line, and it's up to the court to sort out which of them benefits -- and who is truly related.
More than two dozen attorneys crowded into the small courtroom in the Minneapolis suburb of Chaska to jostle over the ground rules for who may ultimately be considered.
Attorneys for Tyka Nelson pushed the court to take a narrow view of heir eligibility. Nelson's claim and that of several half-siblings are firmly based on legal documents that establish Prince's parentage, including a divorce record for his parents.
They said claimants who have asserted that Prince's parents were someone other than John Nelson and Mattie Shaw should be rejected. Brian Dillon, an attorney for Tyka Nelson, urged Eide to act quickly.
"There is some urgency in determining who are the rightful heirs," Dillon said. "We are now more than 2 1/2 months out from (Prince's) death."
Claimants who disputed Prince's parentage pushed for a broader view of eligibility. James Selmer represents Venita Jackson Leverette, who claims that Prince's real father was Alfred Jackson Sr. and that she is Prince's half-sister.
Selmer said his client's claim is strong and could be backed up by a DNA test if permitted by the court.
All told, more than a dozen people have made claims of ties to Prince that would earn them a slice of his estate, a number that worried Dillon and other attorneys hoping for a quick decision.
"The more cats there are to be herded, the more expense, the more delay," he said.
Eide's preliminary ruling won't come for at least two weeks.
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