Carver County District Judge Kevin W. Eide said that even if Prince's father, John L. Nelson, had treated Duane R. Nelson Sr. as his son, Minnesota law limited inheritance to descendants who are related biologically or through adoption.
“There is no case law in Minnesota or, to the court's knowledge, anywhere in the United States that establishes for intestacy purposes where there was no genetic relationship but the parties to the relationship held themselves out to be father and son,” Judge Eide wrote.
Prince died of an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl on April 21. Because he apparently did not leave a will, and was survived by no parents, spouse or children, his estate will be divided between his siblings and half-siblings.
The court has already determined that six people are Prince’s presumptive heirs: Prince’s full sister Tyka Nelson and five half-siblings: Noreen, Sharon, and John Nelson, Alfred Jackson and Omarr Baker.
Judge Eide has dismissed numerous claims from people calling themselves Prince’s siblings and children, but he held a special hearing on Friday to evaluate the legal basis for claims from the descendants of Duane Nelson.
Duane Nelson Sr., who many believed to be Prince’s brother during his lifetime, died in 2011. Brianna Nelson is his daughter, and Victoria Nelson, a minor, is the daughter of his son, the late Duane Nelson Jr., who died in 2006.
Brianna and Victoria Nelson filed claims shortly after Prince’s death. They argued that although Duane Nelson might not be the biological son of Prince’s father, John L. Nelson, the fact that John always treated Duane as a son created a family relationship.
At the hearing, Celia Berganza, the attorney for Brianna and Victoria Nelson, urged the court to look to “the reality of families, as opposed to the legalistic definition of families.”
Judge Eide rejected this argument, saying that the Minnesota Probate Code and the Minnesota Parentage Act limit heirs to those related genetically, by adoption or through reproductive assistance, the judge said.
Judge Eide allowed Corey Simmons, a man who claimed to be the son of Duane Nelson, until Nov. 25 to prove his allegation that John L. Nelson intended to adopt Duane.
Brianna and Victoria Nelson are likely to appeal the judge's decision. With a nine-figure tax bill looming next year -- perhaps half the value of the estate -- any delay in making a final determination of Prince’s heirs could prove costly.