Blog Post

When Heirs Cry: Claiming Prince’s Paternity

          The inheritance saga in the wake of Prince’s death continues.  Since reportedly dying without a will, potential heirs are coming of the proverbial woodwork and claiming they are entitled to a piece of Prince’s fortune.  According to Minnesota law, if there is no will, the deceased’s estate first goes to his spouse. If there is no living spouse, then the estate would go to the deceased’s children.  If there are no living children, then the parents inherit the estate.  Finally, if no living parents, the estate would pass to the deceased’s parents’ descendants (i.e., the siblings of the deceased).


          As the facts were known to the public just after Prince’s death in late April, Prince had two ex-wives, no living children, and no living parents.  His only known son, Boy Gregory, died within a week of his birth.  As such, his sister, Tyka Nelson, filed papers with the court naming herself and five (5) of his half-siblings as heirs.[1]


          On Friday, May 6, 2016 the judge in Prince’s case ordered DNA testing for anyone claiming to be an heir, and established a four month deadline to complete the tests.  According to the order, Bremer Trust of St. Cloud, Minnesota, the Special Administrator, has permission to transfer the DNA samples from the medical examiner to the DNA Diagnostics Center in Fairfield, Ohio for testing.  After September 6, 2016 the court will not consider any additional claimants.  As of this publication, two people who have filed with the court claiming to be related to Prince: a potential son and a potential half-sister.


          The first is Carlin Q. Williams, a Missouri man in Colorado federal prison on weapons charges.  On May 9, 2016, Carlin Q. Williams’ mother, Marsha Henson, filed an affidavit stating she was unmarried at the time she and Prince had unprotected sex and she did not have intercourse with any other men in the six (6) weeks prior to her rendezvous with Prince or until her son’s birth.  If the court-ordered DNA test proves Prince was the father of Mr. Williams, he will not only stand to inherit a share of Prince’s estate, but as the sole surviving son, he will inherit Prince’s entire estate, which is valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.  That is, if no other potential children come forward before the September 6, 2016 deadline.


          The second claimant thus far is Darcell Gresham Johnston from Kansas City.  In the paperwork she filed on Friday, May 6, 2016 Ms. Gresham claims that she is Prince’s half-sister and they share a mother, Mattie Shaw.  If Carlin Q. Williams is not Prince’s son and a DNA test proves that Ms. Johnston and Prince are half-siblings, then she will join the group of other sibling and half-siblings.  The court will then split the estate in equal shares.


          A third man (not claiming to be an heir), Rodney Horachio Dixon, claims that through a verbal agreement, Prince gave him authority over his music catalogue and vault in the mid-1990s – a substantial part of the estate.  He filed a Declaration, Petition, and Demand for Notice on April 27th, 2016.


          In the coming months, there may be other claims of paternity, particularly since a Louisiana based genealogical company ran an advertisement looking for heirs and garnered over a thousand responses.  Of course, it is possible that none of these are legitimate, but if they are serious enough, they will have to pony up the court fees and submit to DNA testing, letting science and the courts sort out the rest.


[1] We mentioned in a previous post that Tyka Nelson made no mention of his pre-deceased half-brother, Duane, with whom Prince shared a father, even though she mentioned his pre-deceased half-sister, Lorna Nelson. An unidentified source told the New York Daily News on May 9, 2016 that when Duane was a teen, he discovered that John Nelson – the father he purportedly shared with Prince – was not his biological father.  If this is true, then his daughter or granddaughter would not stand to inherit any of Prince’s estate and it would explain why Tyka Nelson did not name him in the court documents she filed.