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December, 8, 2016

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Prince estate worth US$200 million, court filing suggests

MINNEAPOLIS -- Prince's estate is worth about US$200 million, a new court filing suggests.

It's the first time a specific estimate has emerged publicly from court proceedings following Prince's April overdose death. Since he left no known will, the rock superstar's sister and five half-siblings are in line to inherit equal shares of the estate — after taxes gobble up about half of it. By comparison, David Bowie's estate was worth about US$100 million when he died in January, according to his will.

Shortly after Prince's death, when officials were beginning to place a value on his musical catalog, unreleased music, the Paisley Park studio complex and other assets, one lawyer for the company overseeing the estate, Bremer Trust, said it could be worth somewhere between US$100 million and US$300 million.

Attorneys have avoided giving specific figures in public since then, but based on a court filing made public this week, Bremer Trust puts the value of the estate at about US$200 million, The Associated Press has calculated.

That figure is based on a memo that mentioned the company's fee as US$90,000 per month. That's US$1.08 million per year. Bremer Trust uses a fee schedule based on the value of an estate, and the sliding percentage drops to 0.5 percent for any assets over US$10 million. The AP calculated that that annual fee works out to an estate worth US$200 million.

Two estate law experts not connected with the Prince case who reviewed the documents agreed with that conclusion.

It's possible the value will rise or fall. The final total won't be determined until after more appraisals and taxing authorities decide what they think the estate is worth. Because of the looming tax bill, Bremer Trust may be lowballing the estate's estimated value, Minneapolis estate law attorney Susan Link.

Bremer Trust's lead attorney on the estate, Laura Halferty, did not immediately respond to messages Wednesday seeking comment. Halferty's signature is on the memo that disclosed the US$90,000 fee. Figures on the estate's value and Bremer's fee were redacted from earlier case documents.

The estates of some other dead rock superstars continue to generate big bucks. Forbes magazine's annual list of top-earning dead celebrities for 2016 showed Michael Jackson's estate collected US$825 million, Elvis Presley's earned US$27 million and Bowie's took in US$10.5 million.

Prince's estate took in US$25 million and sold more albums than any other dead musician to earn the No. 5 spot on the list.

Even so, the taxman inevitably cometh, and Link says the estate will be "writing a check for a whole lot of money." Prince's estate has until Jan. 21 to file federal and state estate tax returns. It can get a six-month extension, but still must pay the estimated tax — about half the estate's value — although it may be able to pay just 10 percent then and spread the rest out for 10 years, Link said.

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