When musician Prince Rogers Nelson died at the age of 57 on April 21, 2016, he had no estate plan in place, not even a will. We blogged that “You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Need an Estate Plan.”
As the third anniversary of Prince’s death approaches, his probate estate continues to be administered in Carver County District Court in Minnesota. Judge Kevin Eide issued orders naming Comerica Bank & Trust as Personal Representative (i.e., administrator) of the Estate and identifying Prince’s six siblings and half-siblings as the heirs.
Litigation involving the Estate spilled over into California in December 2018 when Paisley Park Enterprises, Inc. (Prince’s company) and Comerica as Personal Representative filed a motion to compel compliance with a subpoena by a Redding-area law firm, Sidebar Legal, PC. See Paisley Park Enterprises, Inc. v. Boxill, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, Case No. 2:18-mc-00211-MCE-KJN.
Paisley Park and Comerica allege that George Boxill, a musical engineer with whom Prince worked in about 2004-2008, conspired with others after Prince’s death to sell unreleased recordings. Boxill signed a confidentiality agreement before starting work that confirmed Prince and Paisley Park’s ownership of any recordings.
Boxill’s group allegedly planned to release the “Deliverance EP” in April 2017 on the first anniversary of Prince’s death. The music was available online for a few days.
Comerica aggressively pursued litigation against Boxill and related parties. An arbitrator found in 2018 that Boxill breached the Confidentiality Agreement and awarded Paisley and Comerica nearly $4 million in damages and attorneys’ fees.
Following the arbitration, Comerica amended its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota to add Sidebar Legal and another law firm as defendants, claiming that they induced breaches of the Confidentiality Agreement and the intellectual property rights associated with the recordings. Attorney Matthew Wilson is Sidebar’s principal.
After Sidebar defaulted as a defendant in the Minnesota action, Comerica filed a motion to compel compliance with a subpoena that it served on Sidebar. The motion was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, given Sidebar’s Redding-area location.
Yet the “Purple Rain” shower was short lived in California. On January 3, 2019, Magistrate Judge Kendall Newman transferred the motion to the federal court in Minnesota.
Prince sang that “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night” and indeed never found time to create a trust that could have protected his assets from a public and expensive probate administration. As the probate process drags on, Comerica has a duty to defend the Estate’s valuable interests in Prince’s released and unreleased music.