If I die without a Will, can the person I consider my brother inherit?

December 7th, 2020  |  Estate Planning

Duane Nelson’s story

Superstar Prince died at his Paisley Park mansion in Minneapolis in 2016 following an accidental overdose. He was 57 years old and left an estate worth about $200 million, but no will. Prince’s parents were deceased, he was twice divorced, and he had no children, so one of the first issues was to determine who his heirs would be. He had one sister and five half-siblings who were eventually recognized as his heirs, but the family of one other unofficial “brother”, Duane J. Nelson, was excluded. Although Prince’s father John Nelson had referred to Duane as his son, and Prince had referred to Duane as his brother, John was not Duane’s biological father and had never adopted him. Duane had worked for Prince as head of security at Paisley Park, but they eventually had a falling out and Duane had left and fallen on hard times. The court cut Duane’s family out of any inheritance.

Lawyer’s comment: This is only one piece of the ongoing, complicated litigation involving Prince’s estate, which continues to bring in at least $25 million a year. Unfortunately, informal family relationships such as Prince’s “brother” are not usually recognized by the laws of intestate succession. So, if you want to leave something to an unofficial family member who is not related to you either biologically or through adoption, you should spell it out in a will.