Prince Rogers Nelson was known to the world simply as Prince. The singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer broke into the mainstream in the early ’80s when he was only 19 years old. He scored a deal with Warner Bros Records and issued his debut album, For You, which was a moderate success. His follow-up, a self-titled effort, made him a more proper rockstar thanks to the success of singles “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “Why You Treat Me So Bad.” This album also contained the record “I Feel For You,” which would eventually become a huge hit for Chaka Khan. As his image and music began to take on more androgynous and shocking qualities, Prince’s star continued to rise till, at one point, he was arguably as big as Michael Jackson and Queen. The success of albums like 1999 and Purple Rain made him a megastar, and he would go on to sell more than 120 million albums worldwide and become highly decorated with Grammys, American Music Awards, Golden Globes, Oscars, and more.
Prince was a fierce voice for ownership in the music industry and fought hard against his parent label for rights to his name and his music. For a time, he was not even able to perform as Prince and instead took on a symbol while news outlets began calling him “The Artist Formally Known as Prince.”
He would eventually earn his Emanicption in 1996 and went on to enjoy over two decades of free creativity until his untimely passing in April of 2016. Prince reportedly died from a drug overdose of Fentanyl. He was only 57.
After years of ownership battles dominated his life, the war was on yet again in death to see who would control Prince’s assets. Although he did all that work in the ’90s to gain ownership of his music, he reportedly never had a will made. Prince also had no children and was not married at the time of his death. His six siblings defaulted as his heirs, and the courts began breaking down who would get what. The estate is currently valued at $156 million dollars, a figure that took everyone six years to reach due to the various tax factors at play.
Things have gotten increasingly more complicated as some of his siblings have died in the time since his passing as well. According to Billboard, “Lawyers and consultants have been paid tens of millions of dollars to administer his estate and come up with a plan for its distribution. Two of Prince’s six sibling heirs, Alfred Jackson and John R. Nelson, have since died. Two others are in their 80s.”
Alfred Jackson passed on August 30th, 2019. He was only 66 years old when he was found unresponsive. It is believed he died from natural causes. Jackson was a Vietnam veteran and served in the Air Force. He lived for many years at the St. Cloud, Minnesota, VA Medical Center after being honorably discharged.
John R. Nelson passed on September 3rd, 2021. He was Prince’s oldest brother. His cause of death and age was never revealed. His sister took to social media to break the news saying, “It is with great sadness, that we announce that our beloved brother Johnny R. Nelson received his Heavenly wings tonight at 7:47 PM. Johnny’s loving personality and spirit shined brightly, and he fought hard to help preserve Prince’s legacy. We will miss you, Johnny.”
The siblings have a hefty tax debt to cover. “Just over $5 million of Prince’s estate will be exempted from taxes under federal law, but thereafter the tax rate is 40%. In Minnesota, the first $3 million is tax-exempt; after that, much of Prince’s estate will likely be taxed at 16%.”
Now that everything has been settled, the judge finally ruled this week that the family would be evenly dividing estate with the New York-based music company Primary Wave. Primary Wave acquired a large stake in the estate in 2021 and owned rights to his music and likeness after buying them from three of his heirs. Despite the estate being valued at $156 million, all parties will evenly split $5.6 million in cash.