The number of potential heirs in line to share millions from Prince’s estate was cut Friday when a Carver County judge overseeing the case dismissed the claims of more than two dozen people and ordered the genetic testing of six others.
In a 19-page ruling, District Judge Kevin Eide methodically untangled the complex issues surrounding the question of who could eventually inherit Prince’s bounty, estimated to be $100 million to $300 million before taxes.
In short, it appears there may be at least six potential heirs — and possibly two more — who have the same mother or father as Prince, depending on the results of the genetic testing.
Claims from five people who said Prince is their father were dismissed, although the judge said he may reconsider one case if proof is provided that Prince adopted the child. So far, the child “has failed to provide proof of the alleged adoption,” Eide stated in his ruling.
Among the six who have been ordered to undergo genetic testing are children of John L. Nelson, Prince’s father. They include Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, and three half-siblings, John, Norrine and Sharon Nelson.
Two others — Brianna Nelson and Victoria Nelson — also have been ordered to undergo genetic testing. Brianna Nelson has said that she is Prince’s niece, claiming that her father, the late Duane Joseph Nelson Sr., was John L. Nelson’s son and Prince’s half-brother.
Other Prince siblings, however, have said that’s not true. But if it is, Brianna Nelson and her 11-year-old niece, Victoria, could be counted as heirs.
Two other half-siblings of the late musician — Omarr Baker and Alfred Jackson — were not ordered to undergo genetic testing.
According to a court petition submitted earlier this year, the two are related to Prince because the three men have the same mother — Mattie Shaw.
Prince was found dead April 21 from an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl in an elevator at his Paisley Park complex in Chanhassen.
No will has been found in the three months since, meaning Minnesota law will determine which of the many claimants will be in line to collect.
Barring any appeals from those who have been dismissed as possible heirs, the case will continue to move forward once the genetic testing is completed, said attorney Frank K. Wheaton, who represents Alfred Jackson.
“I’m thrilled for Alfred, because this evaporates any uncertainties whether Alfred” is one of the intended beneficiaries of Prince’s estate, Wheaton said.
A unique, complex case
Eide’s ruling Friday follows a hearing last month where more than 20 attorneys representing potential heirs showed up at the Carver County Courthouse in Chaska to debate how Minnesota’s probate laws interact with laws for determining parentage.
At that time, Eide said he and the lawyers were struggling to understand the complexities of how the laws might affect the case. The last time the appellate courts weighed in on the laws was in 2006. But legislative revisions in 2010 leave the matter open to challenges.
“This case is perhaps unique in the state of Minnesota,” Eide said then. “In many ways, we are in unchartered water here …
“I want to do it right, because it’s important to a lot of people,” he added.
Prince has no known surviving children or parents who would be first and second in line as heirs under Minnesota law.
Next in line would be his surviving siblings, and the progeny of any deceased siblings.
That allowed the judge to dismiss the claims of 13 people who claimed to be distant relatives.
Eide’s ruling also seemed to dismiss other claims that appeared to have little substance.
Two people claimed that their mothers had a sexual relationship with Prince.
Those claims were based on “speculation or third-party conjecture,” the judge said in his ruling.
One claimant said his mother told him at age 28 that his father “was very smart and intelligent” and that at his grandmother’s funeral, his mother’s best friend told him that his name was “French for Young Prince” and that “Mr. Nelson was the reason.”
As part of Friday’s ruling, Eide said documents submitted by those claiming to be Prince’s offspring would be unsealed within 20 days.
Staff writers Dan Browning and Emma Nelson contributed to this report.