MW’s Head of Estate and Trust Disputes Team, Hayley Bundey, discusses the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson being another example of a star dying without a Will and the distressing implications this can have for their loved ones left behind.

On the 21st April 2016 the world was shocked to learn of the death of the pop star, musician and icon to a generation, Prince.  It has subsequently been confirmed that he died without a Will (intestate) and as such his fortune of some $300 million (not to mention future earnings from royalties) is reported to be passing to his siblings, full sister Tyka Nelson and five half-siblings (as he died without a spouse, children or surviving parents). At the time of writing, a possible seventh beneficiary has recently been found – the granddaughter of one of Prince’s pre-deceased half-brothers who would inherit her grandfather’s share if her relationship to the star can be proven.

It is understood that Prince had one other half-sibling who pre-deceased him and who didn’t have any descendants so they won’t therefore inherit and neither will his two ex-wives benefit from his Estate.

As a devout Jehovah’s Witness, you have to wonder whether this would have been what Prince would have wanted and if he would have instead wanted to benefit the Jehovah’s Witness church in some way if he had executed a Will.

We will of course never know now.

The Difference between Minnesota Law and English Law

Interestingly Minnesota Law apparently makes no distinction between Prince’s full sister, Tyka, and his half-siblings whereas if English law applied to his intestate Estate the situation would be very different. Under the Intestacy Rules in England & Wales Tyka would be entitled to be the sole beneficiary of Prince’s Estate to the exclusion of his half-siblings.

It is clear that unwanted outcomes can arise when people take the risk of not executing a Will but despite numerous examples of high profile celebrities having done so in the past, resulting in often bitter inheritance disputes following their death, some stars don’t seem to learn.

Other Intestate Celebrities

Prince joins a long list of examples of Celebrities who failed to execute a Will before their death, such as:

  • Amy Winehouse – who died in 2011 at the age of 27 – her £3 million Estate went to her parents with none passing to her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil.

  • Barry White – who died in 2003 at the age of 58 – he left years of post-death battles behind him between his children, wives and girlfriends.

  • Bob Marley – who died in 1981 at the age of 36 – he left a wife with three children fighting with three additional mothers of six further children to fight it out over his Estate.

Heath Ledger and an Outdated Will

Heath Ledger is another example of the pitfalls which can befall those who have executed a Will but have failed to update them.  Upon his death in 2008 at the age of 28, it was discovered that the entirety of his Australian assets were to pass to his parents and siblings rather than his 2 year old daughter Matilda as he failed to update his Will following Matilda’s birth.

Thankfully the family agreed to do the right thing in this scenario and gift the entirety of the Estate to Matilda in trust without her mother, Michelle Williams, having to make a formal claim against the Estate.

Intestacy is Far Too Common

Unfortunately, these examples are far too common and will rarely result in the amicable resolution which Matilda Ledger experienced. Long running legal disputes between various family members will often follow an intestate death and these can be not only expensive but extremely distressing for those who simply wish to grieve for their loved one.

Don’t let this be you or if it is seek specialist advice to resolve the situation as quickly and painlessly as possible.

We Can Help

At McMillan Williams, our mission is "to make quality legal services accessible to everyone".   Our Specialist Private Client Team can make or update your Will for you to ensure the dreaded unknown of the Intestacy Rules doesn’t apply to you.

If, however, you find yourself in a situation where a loved one has died intestate and you don’t know if you would have a claim against their Estate then our Specialist Estate & Trust Dispute Team can guide you through the process of making a claim against the Estate as quickly and painlessly as possible.

If you would like to take advantage of our FREE CASE REVIEW, call us today on 020 3551 8500 or email us at

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