Here's Who Inherited Prince's Massive Fortune After He Died

Even in a year that seemed to play host to the tragic deaths of an unusual number of major celebrities, the loss of pop genius Prince on April 21, 2016, was, for many, a huge shock. In the preceding months, performer and songwriter had seemingly been riding the crest of a wave of success and creativity.

According to American Music Review, Prince had recently formed a new backing band, 3rdeyegirl, and was enjoying a purple patch of prolific recording, performances, and well-received album releases. The Purple One had also been highly visible during the last year of his life thanks to his political activism, and for his involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement following the fatal injuries suffered in police custody of Freddie Gray, per the same source.

But Prince was also privately struggling with addiction, specifically an increased use of opioid painkillers that he initially used to combat chronic hip pain, according to Rolling Stone. He died of an overdose of the drug fentanyl, aged 57, leaving behind him an enormous personal fortune and a body of work worth millions of dollars. However, according to Fox Business, Prince left no will, meaning that control of his fortune — and his music — was on the line, with circumstances setting the stage for what the Star Tribune would later describe as "one of the most complicated and expensive probate cases ever in [Prince's home state of] Minnesota."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Heirs and acquisitions

With no will to indicate Prince's wishes regarding who would inherit his fortune might be, and with the late singer unmarried and childless at the time of his death — his only son, Amiir, tragically died in infancy in 1996 — a major legal battle reportedly ensued, with numerous figures staking their claim for what the IRS estimated to be a $163.2 million fortune, according to Forbes.

According to the Star Tribune, Prince's estate was initially carved up between his six siblings and half-siblings, while the estate continued to be managed by the Comerica Bank & Trust. In 2021, three of Prince's inheritors  sold their stakes to Primary Wave, a New York music publishing company that from then on controlled half of the musician's estate, according to Fox Business. Primary Wave, whom the Star Tribune describes as an "aggressive" and "well-funded" organization that controls the catalogs of a plethora of musicians (from Ray Charles to Stevie Nicks) also made offers to Prince's other siblings, but they are reportedly holding on to their assets, claiming: "We'll never sell out. We know the prize."

Since his death, numerous albums of new material have been released from Prince's extensive private archive at his Paisley Park complex, which is believed to contain more than 8,000 songs, according to Forbes, meaning that those who retain the rights could enjoy a healthy profit from unreleased music for years to come.

The final settlement of Prince's estate

Though control of Prince's estate was now split between three of his siblings and the publisher Primary Wave, by 2021 — a full five years after the musician's death — legal battles concerning who was owed what raged on.

As well as the acquisition of the rights to Prince's catalog, another ongoing legal wrangle concerned the valuation of Prince's estate in total, including assets such as property. As the Star Tribune notes, though the IRS's valuation of $163.2 million captured headlines, the administrators of Prince's estate, Comerica Bank & Trust, originally valued it at $82.3 million, almost half of the IRS's estimate. Per the same source, the IRS was so incensed by the low valuation that they hit the administrator with an "accuracy-related penalty" of $6.4 million. In response, Comerica sued the IRS, claiming that they had made numerous miscalculations in their assessment.

Thereafter the two parties attempted to settle the valuation of various aspects of Prince's estate before the two attempted to evaluate the value of Prince's music catalog. Eventually, both parties reached an agreement that the estate was in fact worth $156.4 million, with the IRS agreeing to drop their penalty against Comerica, who called the settlement "fair and reasonable."

Per the Star Tribune, the settlement meant that the estate avoided going to trial, where legal fees could've threatened to take a huge chunk of the estate's value; already, the six-year saga to settle what was owed to Prince's heirs and to the IRS had racked up millions in attorneys' fees.