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Prince's six siblings are the heirs to his estate, judge rules

Singer Prince died after a drug overdose in April last year.

A judge in the US has ruled that Prince's six siblings are the heirs to the singer's estate.

In a ruling made public on Friday [Saturday NZ Time], Minnesota's Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide declared that Prince died without a will and that his sister, Tyka Nelson, and five half-siblings are his heirs.

There are people who filed appeals after their claims of heirship were rejected. Eide said if the appellate courts sent those cases back to him, he would still fully consider them.

Eide also said Prince's assets wouldn't be distributed without a formal court order and that nothing would be distributed that might adversely affect the claims of those with pending appeals.

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Eide had previously said he wouldn't declare the siblings as heirs until those appeals had been decided. Attorneys for those who appealed said their interests would be harmed if the district court didn't wait out the appeals process.


But lawyers for Prince's siblings didn't want to wait, saying further delays would have increased costs to the estate and impede its efficient administration.

Prince died on April 21 last year of an accidental drug overdose. Court filings suggest his estate is worth around US$200 million [NZ$289m]. Federal and state estate taxes are expected to consume about half the value.

Meanwhile, Universal Music Group and Comerica Bank, the manager of Prince's estate, are moving ahead with plans to terminate the US$31m [NZ$44.8m] recorded-music deal announced earlier this year.

On Thursday [Friday NZ Time] Comerica Bank, the estate's manager, filed a motion to approve rescission of the the agreement based on "claims of conflicting rights to sound recordings".

According to an announcement at the time, those recordings comprised most of Prince's released work after he ended his initial deal with Warner Bros in 1996 as well as unreleased material, but also rights to certain recordings within that initial Warner deal; Warner is disputing those terms. The motion will be presented before Judge Eide on May 31.

Confusion over the February deal began as soon as it was announced.

The announcement said that "beginning [in 2018], UMG would obtain US rights to certain renowned Prince albums released from 1979 to 1995" - his most successful period by far, including the 1999, Purple Rain, Parade, Batman, and Diamonds and Pearls albums.

However, Prince had cut a new deal with Warner in 2014 that sources say garnered him the rights to the majority of his work released on the label.