Prince and the Publicity of Probate

Yes. Another article on Prince’s Estate. There’s just too much great info to not write about it. Anyway.

Bremer Trust, the company tasked with overseeing Prince’s Intestate Estate (no will), submitting an inventory of Prince’s assets to probate court this week. Which means – you guessed it – we now know what Prince owned on the date of his death, and the value of those assets.

In addition to $25.4 million in real estate in Minnesota, Prince had $840,000 in gold bars, $110,000 in bank accounts, and interests in four different companies – Paisley Park Enterprises, Inc.; NPG Records, Inc.; NPG Music Publishing; and LotusFlow3r – with over $6 million in cash on hand. He also owned a fair amount of personal property, including instruments, clothes, jewelry, cars, custom motorcycles, and household furnishing – as well as trademarks and copyrights to his life’s work – which have not yet been valued.

This is what probate can look like. Obviously Prince is a high-profile celebrity with a lot of personal net worth, but this same process applies just as much to the average Joe. The probate process is very public because it is structured to make sure any known or unknown creditors of the individual can determine what assets of the decedent exist to satisfy any claims. But it doesn’t mean legitimate creditors are the only people with access to this information – or that people won’t use this information to take advantage of your family.

In North Carolina, you don’t have to have specific credentials to gain access to this type of information. Anyone, lawyer or not, can go to the Clerk’s office and pull an estate file off the shelf and look at its contents. One of the first filings in a North Carolina probate file is something similar to what was filed in Prince’s estate – an inventory of assets of the decedent, with corresponding fair market values.

Avoiding probate avoids the public nature of probate and keeps your family’s affairs secret. Putting a probate-avoidance plan into place requires thorough planning, so consult an experienced estate planning attorney before moving forward.