In the days since Prince’s death on April 21, tabloid speculation as to what will happen to the beloved music icon’s estate—said to be worth anywhere from $150 million to $300 million—has reached, well, exactly the depths one might expect tabloid speculation to reach.

This is partly because, with no spouse or children as obvious heirs, it remains unclear how the existing estate of the man born Prince Rogers Nelson, which includes the accumulated wealth from his music career and his Paisley Park compound in Minnesota, will be divvied up. But to estate planning professionals and fans alike, the larger question is: Who will gain control of the artist’s legacy, his image and his music? Prince was the master of his economic destiny in a way that is virtually unrivaled in today's music business—he died owning all of his recording and publishing copyrights. Then there’s Paisley Park’s famed “vault,” which by one estimate contains enough unreleased studio material to fill an album a year for the next 100 years. All of which amounts to an incredible financial and artistic fortune.

The story got more complicated Tuesday when Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson filed papers in Carver County probate court in Minneapolis, stating her brother had no will that she knew of and requesting that a special administrator be appointed to deal with the singer's assets. The key to the legacy of Prince, who was 57, lies in whether or not Nelson is correct. Also, if there is a will she’s unaware of, much will depend on who he designated as the executor(s) and how explicit his instructions were. Estate planning attorneys generally say they would be shocked if a person of Prince’s age with a fortune his size didn’t have a will. Add to this the fact that he maintained an unusually high degree of control over his career and his material—he famously battling Warner Brothers in the name of artistic freedom, denying his music to streaming services and meticulously removing his songs and videos from YouTube—and one could fairly safely assume that he wouldn’t leave the future of his art to chance. That said, he was Prince, and Prince didn’t roll like everyone else. 

“If you were to ask me, ‘Does Madonna have a will?’ Now, I don’t represent her, but I’d be sure she would,” said Lee Phillips, a music and entertainment attorney with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, who represented Prince from the start of his career in the late 1970s through the early 90s. “From the standpoint of what’s in someone’s best interest, it’s unlikely that he didn’t have a will. But he was sort of a maverick in many ways, and I just don’t know how he felt on that subject. If you had to ask me percentage wise, I would say 80 percent chance he has a will, 20 percent he doesn’t.”

So let’s assume the 80 percent scenario. In that case, whomever Prince has named as executor, whether it be lawyer or agent, friend or family member, will be tasked with the responsibility for the Purple One’s intellectual property and image. Of his living relatives, the most obvious candidate is his sister, who also a musician. Mobeen Azhar, a journalist who made the documentary Hunting for Prince’s Vault, has suggested Prince’s friend Larry Graham, the bassist for Sly and the Family Stone, who recently moved to Minnesota and manages Paisley Park, according to Azhar. He has also suggested drummer and longtime collaborator Kirk Johnson.

On the professional side, in addition to the obvious choice of a lawyer or an accountant, estate planning attorneys say there are a couple of other possibilities to fill the role of executor. There could be other entities, like a corporate structure or a trust, which would designate either corporate officers or a trustee to be in charge of the estate. There could also be two executors, a financial professional to handle the business end and what’s called a literary executor to make decisions regarding intellectual property.

For artists, “there’s so much sentiment tied up in the assets, not just financial value but emotional value,” said Darren Wallace, a partner at the law firm Day Pitney, where he specializes in estate and trust planning, administration and litigation. “Artists do put great effort into how their works will be displayed, allocated [and] distributed, and leave very specific instructions about how they would want their fiduciaries to carry out these tasks.”

Assuming someone as detail oriented as Prince would fall into this camp, his instructions regarding the unreleased material could range from “burn everything” to “do what you choose after I’m gone.” Most likely it would land somewhere in the middle, with specific guidance that also gives the executor some level of discretion. All we know for sure is the potential value of Prince’s intellectual property and image could far exceed the current value of his estate. 

“We’ve seen other examples—Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, these icons who pass away with unreleased material. There’s still a lot of untapped value in their estates. And the licensing that can go along with releasing the works and the value associated with their likeness and image has become, in this celebrity culture, a very valuable asset,” Wallace said. “What’s it worth to have died being Prince? What’s the monetary value of that on the date of death? If it’s a high number, you pay an estate tax, and the federal estate tax is 40 percent. So that’s a question the IRS will be very interested in.”

One way to alleviate the tax burden would be to leave a significant chunk of the estate to charity. Because Prince was a faithful Jehovah's Witness who reportedly regularly attended Kingdom Hall services, he may have willed at least a portion of his fortune to that church. He was also a philanthropist, giving to environmental and animal rights causes, as well as programs for disadvantaged youth. After Prince’s death, political activist Van Jones revealed that, while he was the face of environmental group Green For All, Prince was the driving force and checkbook. Jones said Prince also helped found #YesWeCode, an initiative to help disadvantaged young people learn tech sector job skills.

An intensely private person, Prince’s personal life did not often make headlines. He was divorced twice and tragically lost a son one week after birth due to a genetic cranial ailment known as Pfeiffer syndrome. With both his parents and grandparents deceased, the next in line to inherit his fortune if there is no will would be his siblings, according to Minnesota law. In addition to Nelson, Prince had several half siblings, at least two of whom have reportedly passed away. In the absence of a will, under Minnesota law, Nelson would likely be named executor as his closest living relative, and she and all of Prince’s remaining half-siblings would split the estate equally.

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