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First Probate Hearing For Prince's Estate Wraps Up

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The first probate hearing in the complicated job of dividing up Prince's estate began Monday morning at the Carver County courthouse, and finished less than 15 minutes later.

It's been 11 days since the musician's death. After receiving a 911 call, deputies found Prince dead at his home on April 21. Autopsy results have not been released.

Prince's full sister, Tyka Nelson, filed papers last week saying, to her knowledge, her brother didn't have a will. Prince didn't have any children and he wasn't married. That means, under Minnesota law, Prince's estate would be divided among his surviving siblings.

Prince Siblings In Court
(credit: Cedric Hohnstadt)

Nelson arrived at the Carver County courthouse Monday morning and was peppered with questions from the media, which she did not answer. Also seen was Prince's half-brother Alfred Jackson, along with his attorney Frank Wheaton. Prince's half-siblings Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson and Omar Baker were also present at the hearing.

At Monday's hearing, all of Prince's heirs expressed confidence in Bremer Trust to act as special administrator of the singer's estate, and all siblings have agreed to communicate with each other as proceedings progress.

All siblings signed an agreement for Bremer Trust to handle the affairs, except for half-brother John Nelson, who was absent from Monday's proceedings but, according to his attorney, is on the same page with the rest of his siblings.

Wheaton also confirmed reports that comedian George Lopez has given the siblings money to help tide them over until the estate is settled.

Legal experts said the process could end up costing millions of dollars.

"I would think it's going to be long and pretty costly. You've got to think of it this way, personal representatives, special administrators, attorneys; all these bills are going to come due. On the other hand, we're dealing with an estate that's probably worth $300 - $500 million [or even] more than that. So, the estate's going to be able to afford the professional services as well as pay hefty taxes," Attorney Joe Tamburino said.

Joe Mullen is an estate attorney who is not involved in the case.

"I think this estate could go on for years, and it's going to cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars," he said.

Prince Siblings In Court
(credit: Cedric Hohnstadt)

And because of the size of the estate, Prince's heirs will have to pay sizable taxes to both Minnesota and the federal government. The federal rate will likely be 40 percent.

"If it's a $300 million estate, there would be $140 million in taxes due," Mullen said.

Legal analysts also predict a lot of claims will be made for a share of Prince's estate.

A California man has already filed and said he's the rightful owner of Prince's music because he and the singer had a verbal agreement dating back to the '90s. A judge will have to sort out those claims and determine which ones are legitimate, if any.

Bremer attorneys said there is an ongoing search to locate a will, but so far efforts have been unsuccessful.

There's also the issue of Prince's vault at Paisley Park that reportedly holds hundreds of unpublished recordings and music videos. This would enhance the value of the estate. Some believe it also increases the number of people who are interested in getting their hands on it.

One such person emerged Monday -- a woman named Darcell Johnson from Illinois filed a claim against the estate. A source close to Prince's family says Johnston claims to be Prince's long, lost half-sister.

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