02 May, 2016 Estate planning Events Special Reports and Newsletters

Two Princes and the Law of Intestacy

Famed musician Prince died recently and tragically. Apparently he also died intestate, that is, without a will. It’s my guess that a lot of lawyers in Minnesota are going to be making a lot of money for the next few years. 

Why? Well, the law of Minnesota on intestacy is much like that of Ontario, that is, in cases where there is no spouse and no children (which is the case with Prince) then parents would inherit the entire estate. Prince’s parents predeceased him, so the next step is that the “descendants of the decedent’s parents, or either of them by representation” would inherit. And therein is the complication, because Prince has one full sister and several half-siblings. And if that doesn’t start a costly squabble, nothing will. 

The irony is that Prince was known as a control freak with respect to his intellectual property rights in his music, with his music catalogues and unpublished work reputed to be worth in excess of half a billion dollars. But the same guy never got around to spending a few bucks for a will. Go figure. 

There’s another interesting intestacy story related to a different Prince– this time the Prince of Wales. Under ancient British constitutional law, the Duchy of Cornwall is considered as the personal property of the Prince of Wales (I know, Cornwall and Wales are different places, so it gets confusing!) In any event, if you die intestate in Cornwall, and no heirs are to be found, your estate is deemed bona vacantia (vacant goods) and reverts to the owner of the Duchy, namely Prince Charles. In typical years this produces about £500,000. Fortunately, Prince Charles, who likely doesn’t need the cash, passes all of it along to charities. 

So the moral of the stories is that in Cornwall and Minnesota, it’s not smart to die intestate. Ditto for Ontario! 

Written by: Norman Bowley, Your Tax & Estate Consultant