Five of Prince's six surviving siblings appeared in court Monday for the first hearing to start sorting out an estate certain to be worth millions, a task complicated because the star musician isn't known to have left a will.
In a hearing that lasted a little over 12 minutes, Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide formalized his appointment last week of Bremer Trust to handle matters involving the estate of Prince, who died suddenly last month at age 57.
Prince's sister, Tyka Nelson, requested the appointment so that the company can manage Prince's estate until an executor is named. Eide asked the packed courtroom whether anyone knew of a will, and the courtroom was silent. Lawyers for Bremer Trust said they hadn't found one but would keep looking.
"The court is not finding that there is no will, but that no will has yet been found," the judge said.
The hearing didn't address how long the estate may take to settle or how much it is worth. His property holdings alone in Minnesota, including his Paisely Park studios in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen, were worth about $27 million, but music industry experts say his earnings after death are likely to be far more.
Tyka Nelson is Prince's only full sibling. Four half-siblings — Alfred Jackson, Norrine Nelson, Sharon Nelson and Omarr Baker — were present. A fifth, John Nelson, didn't attend.
Norrine Nelson and Sharon Nelson exchanged a hug in the courtroom, and family members chatted quietly. Tyka Nelson sat at a table between her two lawyers, while the four others sat side-by-side in the well, just behind their lawyers. None of the siblings commented afterward.
Frank Wheaton, an attorney for Alfred Jackson, said afterward that the siblings were cooperating in settling the estate.
"Everyone is in full accord," he said.
Even if all the heirs really are in agreement, it's going to take a long time to settle the estate, Judith Younger, a University of Minnesota law professor who isn't involved in the case, told The Associated Press. Other claimants are likely to come forward, any disagreements with tax authorities over the value of the estate could result in litigation, and Minnesota courts haven't settled yet whether the rights to someone's likeness, such as Prince's, can be inherited.
"It a real mess that he left behind," she said.
It's also possible that a will could turn up and that it could lead to fights over its validity, Younger said.
"I find it so hard to believe," Younger said, noting how careful Prince was to keep control of his music and other business affairs. "How can there not be a will?"
Susan Link, a Minneapolis estate attorney who also isn't involved in the case, said she doesn't think any of the lawyers involved will "fan the fire" of any discord among the siblings and that their decision last week to sit the siblings down together was a good move. If the siblings can't agree, the personal representative will be going to court a lot, she said.
A law enforcement official told the AP that investigators are looking into whether Prince, who was found dead at his home on April 21, died from an overdose and whether a doctor was prescribing him drugs in the weeks beforehand. The official has been briefed on the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Eide did not set a date for future proceedings. But he noted the intense interest in the case, as reflected by the throng of media and lawyers inside and outside what would normally be a quiet suburban courtroom.
"We're not used to this much notoriety in Carver County," the judge said.