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Lawyers Begin The Long Process Of Trying To Settle Prince's Estate


An update now on two questions surrounding the death last month of music legend Prince. The first is whether Prince died of an opioid overdose. It could be at least another week before a medical examiner in Minnesota releases a final report. The other big question is - who is the rightful heir to his estate? Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio reports.

MATT SEPIC, BYLINE: I'm here at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Minnetonka. This is where Prince often came for Bible study. Dozens of fans and reporters are watching from a distance as the musician's fellow congregants and famous friends are gathering for a Sunday afternoon memorial. Greg Sporre came from West Lafayette, Ind. He says he wanted to pay his respects.

GREG SPORRE: A bunch of my friends - we've all kind of been on the same mindset that, you know, we were expecting to see him up there shredding on his guitar until he was 85 years old. And it's just a shame.

SEPIC: Sporre also visited the large makeshift memorial at Paisley Park, the home and studio where Prince was pronounced dead April 21 at age 57. Toxicology results aren't in yet, but it is known that Prince had an appointment that day with a representative of a California rehab facility. Its director, Dr. Howard Kornfeld, specializes in opioid addiction treatment. Kornfeld's Minneapolis attorney, William Mauzy, told reporters this month the doctor couldn't get to Prince in time.


WILLIAM MAUZY: The hope was to get him stabilized in Minnesota and convince him to come to Recovery Without Walls in Mill Valley. That was the plan.

SEPIC: According to a search warrant, Prince saw a local physician twice in the weeks before he died. It says the doctor prescribed him medications, but the warrant does not name them. Among those trying to get the specifics are the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Minnesota U.S. attorney. As authorities pieced together Prince's final weeks, his family and their lawyers are beginning the long process of trying to settle his estate. It's unknown exactly how much Prince was worth, but with 39 studio albums, plus videos and a vault of unreleased material, estimates are in the hundreds of millions. Investment banker David Pullman says the value has only grown since the artist's death.

DAVID PULLMAN: Can you imagine, you know, all the world's artists picking through the songs and going like, oh, this would be a great song to use. And we'd like to cover a sample.

SEPIC: Because Prince controlled so much of his material, Pullman says his heirs won't have to split royalties with anyone. But who are those heirs? Prince's sister, Tyka Nelson, said her brother left no will. His infant son died 20 years ago, and now a 39-year-old man from Kansas City claims he's the rightful heir. Carlin Williams says his mother, Marsha Henson, conceived him with Prince in 1976. Williams is in federal prison on a gun charge. He's requesting a DNA test. If that story holds up, University of Minnesota law professor Judith Younger says Williams could be in line for the keys to Paisley Park.

JUDITH YOUNGER: If he has a descendent, then that descendant takes precedence over the people who have survived.

SEPIC: With that in mind, attorneys for the trust managing Prince's estate are asking a judge to require anyone else claiming to be Prince's heir to pay for their own DNA test. For NPR News, I'm Matt Sepic in Minneapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Matt Sepic