The tributes to the late musician Prince have come and gone, but the battle over his mammoth, complex estate continued Wednesday among a legion of attorneys in a rural courtroom in Chaska.
Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide convened the hearing to consider four motions. The most critical one asked him to formally declare Prince's sister and five verified surviving half-siblings as his rightful heirs.
"It's already been a year since Prince died, so the greater expense the longer this drags on," said Thomas Kane, who represents several of the siblings.
Prince died at his Paisley Park recording studio in April 2016 from an accidental overdose of opioid painkillers. Because he died without a will, Eide must decide who's entitled to his estate, valued at $100 million to $300 million before taxes.
A formal declaration of his heirs would give others a year to present credible claims that they also should be included. Eide has already ruled several ineligible. Some have objected to making a final heirship determination, noting that their appeals of his rulings are pending at the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
"It will be months, most likely, before the appeals court makes a ruling," said Alex Loftus, a lawyer representing several of the so-called "excluded" claimants. "If the heirs are so confident there is nobody else, what's the hurry?" Loftus asked.
In another matter, Brianna Nelson, a niece of Prince, claimed that the estate did not honor a consulting contract she had to provide memorabilia and personal stories to the Paisley Park museum. She said she was supposed to get $25,000 up front and $25,000 a year for an undetermined number of years. Comerica Bank, the estate's personal representative, argued that the unsigned contract lacked court approval.
Two motions centered on former Prince confidant L. Londell McMillan, an entertainment lawyer who's been acting as a consultant to the estate. He's an adviser to three of the six designated heirs, who want him to have information pertaining to a Prince licensing agreement worth at least $2 million.
Comerica Bank, which was appointed by Eide to manage the estate, is investigating allegations that McMillan mishandled a Prince tribute concert in October. Omarr Baker, one of Prince's half-brothers, subpoenaed documents about McMillan's recent music business deals and correspondence with Prince and the other heirs.
Alan Silver, one of McMillan's attorneys, argued to quash the subpoena, citing confidentiality agreements with the other heirs.
"What they are asking for is too broad," Silver said. "There is no evidence of wrongdoing against McMillan, and they are unjustified attacks."
Comerica noted that Eide had ordered an investigation into allegations of mismanagement by McMillan. The bank's lawyers asked Eide to suppress the release of what they say is confidential information.
Eide took the issues under advisement.