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7 factors that will determine Prince's real worth

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Prince may have exerted incredible control over his career, but that didn't extend in quite the same way to his financial life.

In the days since the superstar musician's unexpected death, surprising new details are emerging about his finances. Prince may have had money headaches before his death, according to the New York Post. But perhaps the most unexpected fact came out on Tuesday, when his sister revealed in probate court paperwork that Prince had left no known will.

"For someone who is used to dealing with sophisticated business arrangements, it's kind of shocking actually," said Martin Neumann, estate and probate attorney at the Los Angeles-based law firm Weinstock Manion. "From what I understand, he handled most things on his own."

Without a will, it's likely that Prince's estate would go to his next of kin, in this case his sister and several half-siblings. But how his estate is divided will become more complicated because of the estate taxes that will be due to both the IRS and the state of Minnesota, where he lived in his Paisley Park house and recording studio. Both state and federal estate taxes could amount to 50 percent of Prince's net worth, Neumann estimated.

"The IRS would hold half of the Prince estate," Neumann said.

Because many of his assets are intangible holdings such as his brand and image as well as yet-unreleased songs, valuing Prince's estate will be complicated.

"The valuation of all of that will be one of the biggest issues in the estate," Neumann added. "The only way they're going to maximize value is to hire the best in the industry."

Read on to learn more about Prince's estate.

Record sales


The musician sold 100 million albums during his life, with "Purple Rain" ranking as his best-selling album at 3.1 million sales, according to Soundscan data that Forbes cited. That doesn't include digital sales or streaming.

While the earnings from those past sales were likely spent or invested into real estate and other assets, Prince's estate stands to benefit from revived interest in his music. Since his death last week, consumers have snapped up his recordings, boosting sales by 42,000 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times, which cited Nielsen Music.

While it's unclear what royalties Prince's estate earns from each record or download sale, "heritage acts" -- artists whose careers span decades -- can earn as much as 25 percent.

If that's the case, his estate's earnings from "The Very Best of Prince," which sold 250,000 albums in the three days after his death, would be about $780,000 alone.

Concert sales

Prince performs during his "Diamonds and Pearls Tour" at the Earl's Court Arena in London on June 15, 1992. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Prince made millions over the course of his career playing concerts, with tours helping to bring his total earnings to more than $270 million, according to Forbes.

But Prince toured sporadically, which meant he popped on and off Forbes' list of highest-earning celebrities. In 2004, for instance, he sold 1.4 million tickets to his Musicology tour, which helped him earn $49.5 million for the year. Some of his live performances were impromptu events that were hit-or-miss in terms of sales, given the last-minute planning, according to TMZ.

The songbook

AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing

Prince's music catalog could be worth at least $100 million, according to Bloomberg. That's based on his known music, which ranges from the songs that he made popular, such as "Little Red Corvette," and the songs he wrote for other artists, such as "Manic Monday" for The Bangles.

The songbook could be worth far more than $100 million, given reports that Prince had stashed away about 2,000 unreleased songs.

"Those unreleased songs have to have tremendous value," Neumann said. "That's going to be a big issue. No matter who receives it, they have to partner with the IRS and Minnesota" because of the estate taxes.

Real estate

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Prince's real estate holdings in Carver County, Minnesota, alone hold a value of $31.3 million.

The nine-acre Paisley Park, where Prince lived and was found unresponsive last week, is valued at $7.01 million. The estate's main building has a white, sleek design, while a glass pyramid on the roof glowed purple while Prince was in residence, according to the Architects Newspaper. The building also includes recording studios, production offices, rehearsal space and a sound stage, as well as Prince's private living space.

Prince held real estate in other states, including California and New York, so his holdings are likely worth more than $31 million.

Spending habits and tax headaches

Chris Pizzello/Reuters

While Prince had successful years, he hampered his earnings potential by refusing to license his songs commercially, such as in TV commercials. Combined with a reported tendency toward lavish spending, Prince may have faced money crunches at times, according to TMZ.

At the same time, he ran into tax problems at various points. In 2012, the IRS summoned the musician to make an appearance at the tax agency to determine whether he owed taxes to the French government for past tours there.

He also ran into problems with tax authorities in Minnesota, where he was asked to make amends for $1.3 million in overdue property taxes. He was known for paying his taxes late, the Star Tribune reported in 2013.

His music’s afterlife


It's clear that Prince's music will continue to earn money for years to come. The posthumous surge in sales of his music hints at what may come, especially if Prince's estate leverages his musical output into live shows and tributes, or licenses his music to films and advertisements.

Aside from the leap in album sales, fans bought more than 2.8 million Prince songs since his death. The posthumous careers of late celebrities can sometimes be more lucrative than when the performers were alive. Michael Jackson's estate has earned more than $1 billion before taxes since his death in 2009, according to Forbes.

Who will inherit his fortune?

AP Photo/Steve Karnowski

Without a will, it's likely that Prince's sister and half-siblings will inherit what's left of his fortune, after the IRS and Minnesota take their cut of estate taxes, said estate attorney Neumann.

"Depending on how the estate is valued, the IRS will have first dibs at the noncatalog assets, because the taxes are the first priority that have to be paid," he added. "They're due nine months after the date of death," although Neumann noted that in complicated cases the IRS will give extensions to allow an estate to sort out issues such as valuing intangible assets.

"In an estate like this, they'll give them time," he said. "Nobody benefits if there's a fire sale."

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