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By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

Q: Does an estate ever have to sue someone?

When someone creates a last will and testament, commonly called a “will”, they name a trusted person to be the executor. That’s the person who will, with the help of an estate administration attorney, be charged with the responsibility of collecting and managing the assets of the estate, paying creditors of the estate, distributing and accounting for assets to estate beneficiaries, and other fiduciary duties. Executors receive a fee for performing these duties and they are also responsible for mistakes they may make.

If someone dies without a will, the court will appoint an administrator of the estate to do the same job as the executor. Sometimes, an executor’s duties are not as straightforward or short-term as usual. Sometimes, an estate has to sue others who have wronged the estate and/or threatened its assets.

Once again, the estate of the late music icon, Prince, is in the news. Shortly after the superstar died in 2016, it was revealed that he died without leaving a will. This was followed by the expected rush of people– legitimate and otherwise– trying to claim a piece of his estate.

When you die without a will you are considered to have died “intestate” and as a result of that classification, your probate assets will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy laws of your particular state. Though the laws differ by state, many intestacy statutes provide for distributions to spouses and/or children first, then parents and more distant relatives, if necessary and applicable. Because he reportedly died with no spouse or children or living parents, leaving a mega-fortune, Prince’s estate administration was expected to be rife with problems. Like bootleggers.

The Estate of Prince has reportedly taken legal action against a ring of European bootleggers who have allegedly infringed upon the copyright of Princes “songs, likeness and other iconic imagery” by illegally “selling Prince’s songs around the world, including the music legend’s final concert” about a month before he died. The suit is seeking $2 million in damages “for each and every use of the Prince trademarks” by the defendants.

If you have been named as executor of an estate or would like to petition the court to be appointed as an administrator for the estate of someone who died without a will, the trust and estate administration attorneys at Merlino & Gonzalez can help you. Contact us today schedule a consultation.

From our offices in Staten Island, New York and East Brunswick, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout New York and New Jersey in all aspects of estate planning, estate administration, and real estate law.

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.