Prince’s music will live on. But it will never earn what it is worth, because he apparently did not make a will. It seems out of character for an artist known for his business acumen almost as much as his music. From Forbes:

“Prince closely maintained and guarded ownership and control over the rights to his music, including the publishing rights, master recordings, performance royalties, and more. He famously stored hundreds of unreleased songs. … Estimates of Prince’s net worth based on the earnings and future royalty rights to music already released range from $300 million to $500 million.”

That’s for his sister, Tyka Nelson, and five half-siblings to divide, splits to be determined. The squabbling has already started. A bank is managing the assets at Tyka’s request. But the absence of a will means Uncle Sam is lurking, too. The Daily Signal, the media arm of The Heritage Foundation, made back-of-the-envelope calculations based on the $300 million figure:

“If Prince were married, he could have passed on the entirety of his estate to his spouse tax free. However, without a spouse, only $1.6 million of Prince’s estate will be free from Minnesota’s death tax and only $5.45 million will escape the federal death tax. The combination of Minnesota’s top death tax rate of 16%, plus the government’s 40% rate, means that over 50% of Prince’s estate will go to the government.”

What is overlooked: Many of Prince’s assets may be relatively illiquid. Some might have to be let go at fire-sale prices to satisfy the government, just as many game show contestants giddy about winning a car have had to sell it to pay the tax bill.

Music genius? Certainly. But the street cred for business savvy is gone, and therein lies a cautionary tale.

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