Estate Planning – Prince v. David Bowie

As many of you may have read by now, it is believed Prince died without leaving a Will. His “estate” including his music catalog is believed to be valued at around $150 million. Without having planned, his tax burden alone may exceed $50 million (in Federal estate taxes).

Prince comes from a large blended family and under Minnesota intestate laws, his siblings get everything. Without a will, there is no provision for managing his music studio, music catalog in total and no way to manage his estate as a single entity and manage it most effectively in total.

Lastly for such an exceedingly private person, probate is an entirely public process. Anyone who wants to will be able to watch how this unfolds and see what Prince had and where it will go.

According to rumors/gossip, he never signed a Will because he was suspicious of the legal process and lawyers after he was “screwed over” as a young artist. That sentiment, well founded as it may have been, set the stage for what may be a destructive process for what he valued most, his music and musical legacy.

David Bowie left an estate valued at approximately $100 million. Conversely, he did leave a Will and utilized trusts for bequests to his children. By using these documents, Bowie was able to direct how he wanted his property distributed (with some tax efficiency from what I understand). Additionally he set up a separate entity for his music catalog “Bowie Bonds” to secure future financial security for his wife and family. Lastly by using trusts and other vehicles, Bowie was able to keep his estate process private.