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Investigation underway into music deal with Prince's estate

California residents might like to know about the latest issues involving the late singer Prince's estate. The pop star owned the rights to his works, which passed to his estate after he died. His discography includes several best-selling albums as well as unreleased songs. A deal for $31 million was made with Universal Music Group, but this agreement was rescinded in July 2017.

Warner Bros. Records released 18 Prince albums, and the deal with UMG was canceled because of possible infringement with the rights of Warner Bros. Records. However, UMG does now control worldwide merchandise and publishing for the late singer.

On Aug. 23, the judge in this case appointed a second special administrator. This administrator will decide whether the estate can pursue a claim against those involved in the UMG deal and if someone should be held responsible for the deal's cancellation. The answer is due back by Dec. 15.

If the former estate advisors encouraged a deal with UMG while knowing about the Warner Bros. Records agreement, they could be held responsible. The advisors earned a 10 percent commission on the UMG deal. When uncertainty about rights arose, UMG wanted the deal voided. One of the advisors was a business partner of Prince's, and he stood by the work he did. He says the agreement with Warner Bros. Records had nothing to do with him and was made while Prince was still alive.

Using trusts and wills could eliminate some issues when settling an estate. Trusts could allow loved ones to avoid the probate process; however, a legal battle could ensue if there are inheritance disputes. Heirs may wish to consult an attorney if litigation becomes necessary.

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