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Prince's estate administrators negotiate songwriting rights deal

We've previously discussed the Prince estate case several times. While most of our readers won't deal with the exact same estate matters that the mega pop star's estate does, the case is a great illustrator of the need to plan for passing on your assets and the complex nature of some probate cases.

You might remember that Prince passed away without a will, leaving both his physical assets and his numbered creative assets in limbo until probate matters are resolved. Meanwhile, the estate itself is caught up in probate as dozens of people claim heirship. The court has spent months sorting through these claims to try to identify all the legitimate heirs of the estate. So far, the list has remained fairly small: Prince's sister and his five half siblings have made the cut.

While all this is going on, people haven't stopped listening to or buying Prince's music, and the entertainment business doesn't sleep, much less stop for probate matters. To keep a handle on business related to the estate, the courts had appointed a temporary administrator. That administrator recently signed a deal with Universal Music Publishing Group to manage the Prince song catalog.

The estate is retaining ownership of the songs but has transferred songwriter rights to UMPG via a contract that involves an unpublished amount of money. UMPG previously had a contract directly with Prince to manage the music, but when it expired in 2013, Prince and his staff took over the job.

Whether or not UMPG will administrate the rights as Prince would have is unknown, but you can ensure your estate is administered according to your wishes by planning ahead. Work with a lawyer to create a will and other estate documents to make your wishes known.

Source: The New York Times, "Universal’s Deal for Prince’s Song Rights May Bring a Wider Audience," Ben Sisario, Nov. 02, 2016

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