Just how much the public ultimately finds out about Prince’s estate will be decided by a Carver County judge after attorneys for news organizations and potential heirs argued Thursday about media access in the ongoing probate case.
Fourteen lawyers, four reporters and just one purported heir gathered Thursday at the county courthouse in Chaska in what turned out to be a much quieter hearing than previous sessions in the case, which will determine who stands to inherit the late megastar’s multimillion-dollar estate.
A group of media organizations, including the Star Tribune, is pushing for increased access to court hearings and documents, including allowing audiovisual equipment and sketch artists in the courtroom and the unsealing of affidavits of people claiming to be Prince’s children.
“It’s our position that everything that happens in this court and everything that’s filed in this case should be public,” said Leita Walker, the attorney representing the media organizations.
Attorneys for Bremer Trust, the special administrator overseeing the estate, countered there are privacy concerns that should prevent media access in some cases. The potential heirs have “sensitive personal histories” they may want kept private, said attorney Doug Peterson.
Additionally, there are ongoing business deals that Bremer wants to keep private as it works to maximize the estate’s value and collect enough for a looming, multimillion-dollar tax bill.
Speaking in support of Bremer’s argument, entertainment attorney Ken Abdo, who’s representing three of Prince’s half-siblings, noted that business transactions would be private if the heirs didn’t need to be consulted on them. Keeping transactions private now avoids opportunities for “celebrity business voyeurism,” he said.
Walker countered that estate transactions would have been private only if Prince were still alive and negotiating them himself.
“With all due respect to the decedent, that ship sailed when he died,” she said.
District Judge Kevin Eide said it may be a while before he rules because there are more pressing matters in the case.
But, he added, “I will try to do so in a thoughtful manner.”
Prince died April 21 of an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl at his Paisley Park compound in Chanhassen.
Among the potential heirs making a claim to his estate in the months since is Brianna Nelson, 31.
Nelson, who says she is Prince’s niece, attended Thursday’s hearing with her attorney, Andrew Stoltmann of Chicago. Stoltmann said he had no objections to the media requests for access.
Nelson is the daughter of the late Duane Joseph Nelson Sr., who she claims was Prince’s half-brother. Other Prince siblings have said that isn’t true — but if it is, Brianna Nelson and her 11-year-old niece, Victoria Nelson, would stand to inherit.
Brianna Nelson watched Thursday’s hearing without saying anything and left just as quietly, her arm linked through Stoltmann’s.