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Was Prince Married? How Does Marriage Affect an Estate? - December 1, 2016

Several months after his death, a woman came forward claiming she was married to Prince and that she was the sole heir of the estimated $300 million estate. She additionally claimed to have possession of a will signed by Prince. In her most recent filing, she is demanding Bremer Trust be removed as executor so that she can handle the estate.


My prior posts noted that Prince died intestate (without a will) and various individuals had come forward claiming to be related to him.  Some of those individuals have been requested to provide evidence of their genetic relationship, and have been unable to do so.


This woman claims to have married Prince in 2002 in Las Vegas.  I briefly reviewed the court documents, and I am rather suspect of her claim, as are various news sources reporting on the matter. Of particular suspicion is the fact that it appears she did not file the marriage certificate or the purported will, claiming they were deemed “top secret” by the CIA. Reportedly this person has also made filings in at least one other celebrity estate, and has previously filed documents to run for president, but was unsuccessful.  


Though it seems highly unlikely this woman truly was married to Prince (or that she knows the whereabouts of a will belonging to Prince), just how would marriage affect his estate? If Prince was married at the time of his death this could significantly change the distribution of his assets. Each state has its own laws setting forth the share for a surviving spouse if there is not a will.


In Minnesota, the percentage of the estate that would be distributed to the surviving spouse increases as the length of the marriage increases. A longer marriage results in the surviving spouse getting a larger portion of the assets.


In Iowa, if a married individual died without a will, the surviving spouse would typically receive all assets. If the deceased individual had children from someone other than the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse would receive one-half of the estate, and the children would share the other half.  Even if the deceased individual drafted a will leaving all assets to someone other than the spouse, such as a friend or child, in Iowa the surviving spouse still has the right to receive approximately one-third of the estate (assuming they did not have a premarital agreement stating otherwise).  


There are exceptions to these general rules, therefore these examples use certain assumptions to show the importance of knowing whether someone was married at the time of death. You should consult an estate planning attorney regarding your own personal situation.