The Artist Formerly Known as…
The news headline of November 21, 2018, says: “A guy who has claimed to be Prince’s son has filed documents with the estate declaring he plans to sue for a piece of Prince’s fortune.”
In estate litigation it is not uncommon for the parties to learn of new and different potential relatives. The interesting legal question often is whether or not the person is really a relative and if so, what is the significance of the claimed relationship. Many cases involve claims attempting to test the limits of the definition of the legal term known as “issue”, which is generally thought to be a person’s children or other lineal descendants such as grandchildren and great grandchildren. However, the term does not mean all relatives, but only the direct bloodline.
So, in Prince’s case Ogeda Patrick filed a notice with the estate stating that the estate has erroneously and continually omitted him as the true heir to the Prince estate. It seems that Patrick’s claim is that because he asserts that he is Prince’s son, he inherits from Prince’s estate because he fits in the class of Prince’s issue.
We understand Mr. Patrick’s purpose in making his claim that he has an interest in the estate. In August, more posthumously released music was turned out by Sony Legacy Recordings. The estate has indicated that it will release corresponding videos. Prince was an interesting and talented artist. In the legal environment he was known to be vocal and active in his efforts to protect his music and to remove unauthorized uploads of his music on the internet. Perhaps the artist’s protective actions will drive up the value of his estate.
Understanding Mr. Patrick’s motivation, what threshold obstacles would he face in his effort to share in Prince’s estate if it were in New York? First, was paternity established in Prince’s lifetime? Was there a blood genetic marker test administered to Prince? In order to be admissible in evidence the test must have been administered to Prince prior his death. Is there other evidence that supports the test result? Was there a lawsuit commenced to determine the paternity before Prince’s death? In New York the law allows nonmarital children to inherit from their father and paternal kindred if paternity is established by clear and convincing evidence and the father of the child has openly and notoriously acknowledged the child as his own.
In 1984 Prince released his most famous work, the album Purple Rain. He explained the meaning of “Purple Rain” as: “When there is blood in the sky – red and blue = purple…purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain.” In Mr. Patrick’s case perhaps, we will one day soon know much more of the details surrounding Prince’s lyrics about a Saturday night – I guess that makes it all right – Little Red Corvette.