As radio stations play Prince songs all day long and Purple Rain makes a return to the theatre, I was struck by the vast amount of content Prince not only produced but owned. Sadly, immediately, I thought of the potential estate tax value of Prince’s estate. This unique situation is playing out right now with the Michael Jackson estate but here Prince owned more of his own work.
Currently, conservative estimates have his estate at $300 million. But these estimates may be way off as Prince actually owned his recording and publishing copyrights. According to the LA Times, music industry insiders say they “can’t imagine a catalog that would have a higher value.”
There is much speculation on who will receive his estate. Because, probate has not been opened, we do not know if Prince had a will yet or not. There has been speculation that he had no will since he was unmarried and had no children. But this seems rather silly (and kind of offensive) to me given his concern for protecting the value of his catalog during life. I would expect to see a pour-over will to a trust.
What will be interesting is what type of estate planning he engaged in during life. Normally, estate tax returns are private and only the estate, the beneficiaries and the IRS know what is on them. However, in the case with a hard to value asset (e.g., a massive music library), there is often a difference of opinion between the estate and the IRS as to the value of the asset. Since the resolution of the difference is in court, we will get a glimpse into the planning done by Prince. One point to make here is that if the beneficiary of the estate is Jehovah’s Witnesses as has been reported (speculated), then this might not end up in court because there would be no tax due because of the estate charitable deduction.