Prince’s siblings: Purported relatives are not heirs

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, October 19, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — Prince’s siblings said a woman and girl purported to be his niece and grandniece have no genetic connection to the late superstar and should not be named as heirs to his estate, according to court documents made public Tuesday. 

Attorneys for Prince’s siblings and half-siblings argued that Brianna Nelson and Victoria Nelson aren’t Prince’s heirs as a matter of law, and a judge should deny their claims. A hearing on the issue is set for Friday.

Prince, 57, died April 21 of an accidental fentanyl overdose in his Paisley Park studio and estate. He left no known will.

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Brianna Nelson and her niece, Victoria Nelson, have filed court documents claiming they are descendants of the late Duane Nelson Sr., who they said was Prince’s half brother. They don’t claim a genetic link, but said Prince’s biological father considered Duane Nelson as his own son and Prince treated Duane like a brother. Duane died in 2011.

Prince’s siblings, however, believe that isn’t enough to prove heirship under Minnesota law.

“If an heirship claim could rely on behavior alone as a basis, it would open the floodgates to individuals claiming they were treated ‘like a brother’ or ‘like a son,”’ the attorneys wrote.

They argued that with no known will, a parent-child relationship must be validated through genetics, adoption, assisted reproduction or an established presumption of parentage laws. They said that Brianna and Victoria Nelson are asking the court “to casually sweep aside these well-established tenets of Minnesota law and instead seek to base their claim entirely on behavioral and anecdotal evidence.”

In Minnesota, there are circumstances in which someone can be considered a parent based on having a familial relationship with a child, such as informally raising a non-biological child as their own. Experts said the law doesn’t give clear guidance.

The judge overseeing Prince’s estate will have to sort out a complex interplay between probate and parentage laws that appears to be unique to Minnesota.

As it stands now, Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, and his five half-siblings are in line to split Prince’s estate six ways. Should the court count Duane Nelson as another half-sibling, Brianna and Victoria Nelson — as well as possibly a man who recently claimed to be Duane Nelson’s son — would be entitled to one-seventh of the estate, which has been estimated at between $100 million and $300 million in total.

Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide has already found that Brianna and Victoria Nelson have presented a plausible enough case to proceed and don’t need to undergo genetic testing.