Some of the $1.2 million in attorneys fees sought from the late Prince's estate drained the assets for potential heirs, potentially harming their ability to pay the taxes, according to a Carver County District Court motion filed by the special administrator on the case.
Three law firms seek the $1.2 million. All formerly represented John Nelson, Sharon Nelson and Norrine Nelson and Tyka Nelson. Liz Kramer, a lawyer at Stinson Leonard Street, which represents estate administrator Bremer Trust, filed a five-page motion made public Monday. Kramer noted that lawyers for Alfred Jackson and Omarr Baker didn't seek attorneys fees, although they had participated in the same activities as the attorneys who did.
Her filing was a response to the lawyers' request for fees, or as Kramer called the memo, "context regarding payments sought." She took no position on what each firm should get.
Even so, she noted activities that she concluded had benefited the estate and those that were of "questionable" or no benefit.
Kramer essentially accused some lawyers representing presumptive heirs of squandering several hundred thousand dollars in estate assets. The filing also hints at family disputes over the future management of Prince's estate, and includes a reference to some family members getting paid for providing Prince anecdotes and memorabilia for the museum at Paisley Park.
The court records were filed in advance of a hearing Thursday in Carver County District Court, which has been handling the estate since Prince's death April 21 of an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl.
Bremer Trust is wrapping up its role as estate administrator. Because Prince left no will, his sister, Tyka Nelson, and his half-siblings, Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson, John Nelson, Baker and Jackson, are likely heirs to his fortune, which has been estimated at between $100 million and $300 million before taxes, which are expected to claim roughly half.
Kramer found some legal activities to be beneficial to the estate, including Lommen Abdo firm's efforts to draft and lobby for the Prince Act, relating to the right of publicity using the late musician's image. She concluded the firm's efforts to interview trust companies that could take over for Bremer Trust were reasonable as well. And she found no quarrel with the Holland and Knight law firm's work to finalize court-approved entertainment contracts, research on the determination of heirs and its help setting up the Paisley Park museum.
But some legal activity exclusively benefited individual clients, Kramer wrote.
For one, many of the attorneys seeking fee reimbursements challenged advisers hired by Bremer Trust even after those advisers brought valuable contracts to the estate, she said. That wasted assets by requiring additional legal fees to fight them off, she added.
Some attorneys also wasted estate resources by needlessly opposing entertainment deals brought forward by the special administrator's advisers, Kramer said in her court filing.
She said Holland & Knight lawyer Robert Labate's request for $100,000 for the first days he represented Tyka Nelson had no value to the estate.
She also said that Paisley Park consulting agreements — in which they shared anecdotes and memorabilia with the museum — were made on behalf of individual family members and did not benefit the estate.
The administrator also said that even though lawyers were satisfied with a process for court-approved entertainment contracts, Tyka Nelson and Omarr Baker tried to revise the protocol causing additional fees. The motion caused a month's delay. Holland & Knight seeks $132,786 related to that motion alone.
Labate, based in Chicago, declined to comment.