Have you ever wondered what an estate representative’s job would be if there were a potential for the estate to make additional income after the decedent’s death? While an estate representative or executor isn’t expected to be a financial wizard, he or she does need to take reasonable steps to maintain and, ideally, increase the value of the estate.
That issue just arose in regards to the estate of Prince Rogers Nelson, the internationally revered artist “Prince,” who died one year ago today. His music is still earning money, but it was a particular song’s value the estate is worried about at the moment.
As you may have heard, a former sound engineer who worked with prince in 2006 was set to release a new EP today, in honor of Prince’s memory. The problem? The new songs, including one called “Deliverance,” had never been released by Prince — and weren’t owned by the sound engineer.
It’s unclear how the engineer came to be in possession of the recordings. According to the lawsuit brought by the estate representative, Comerica Bank & Trust, and Prince’s production company Paisley Park Enterprises, the man was required to sign a confidentiality agreement at the time.
He has allegedly breached that confidentiality agreement, to be sure, but he is also “threatening to exploit the personal interests of a deceased person that do not belong to him,” according to the complaint.
The estate representative has a legal duty to collect all of the estate assets, and it demanded any and all recordings from the sound engineer on March 21. He has refused to hand them over.
The estate also has a duty to maximize the value of all estate assets, to the extent reasonable. That is largely what prompted the lawsuit. Originally filed in the county of Prince’s residence, the lawsuit has been moved to federal court. On Wednesday, the estate representative asked the federal judge to issue a restraining order keeping the engineer from releasing the EP.
“If [he] publishes sound recordings Prince made before he died without authorization, it deprives Prince (and now the Estate) from choosing what is released to the public and when.” Moreover, the estate argued that the man has no rights whatsoever to use Prince’s name, image or likeness, and that a premature release of the EP would harm the estate’s and Paisley Park Enterprises’ business relationships.
After a consideration of whether that harm was irreparable and several other factors, the judge granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting the sound engineer from releasing the EP unless he is able to prove his rights in court.