Inheritance dispute to play out in Jackson County probate court
Inheritance dispute to play out in Jackson County probate court
One of the most hotly contested celebrity estates of recent years has triggered a new dispute in the Jackson County Circuit Court’s probate division.
The dispute in Missouri stems from the death of the late pop superstar Prince, whose full name was Prince Rogers Nelson. He died in April 2016 at age 57 in Minnesota of an accidental fentanyl overdose.
Prince did not have a will at the time of his death, prompting a high-profile, protracted dispute about who should inherit his estate, which is estimated to be worth between $100-300 million. The estate’s value is largely tied to Prince’s intellectual property and music rights.
In 2017, a Minnesota judge decided Prince’s sister and five half-siblings would split the estate. The estate still has not been divided amongst the family members, however, because it has been tied up in various legal battles.
Now, a new wrinkle in the case has emerged in Missouri following the death of a Kansas City-area man who was Prince’s half-brother.
Alfred Jackson Jr., 66, died of coronary heart disease in August in his home in Lee’s Summit. Jackson and Prince were sons of the same mother, Mattie Baker, and Jackson was one of the siblings in line to inherit a portion of Prince’s estate.
Alfred Jackson’s death has created a new, separate dispute in Jackson County: One of his surviving half-brothers — Shawn Jackson, who is not a Prince sibling — is contesting a will purportedly written and signed by Alfred Jackson that would bypass his living siblings. Instead, that will would give Alfred Jackson’s entire estate to a California entertainment consultant who, according to Shawn Jackson, did not know him well or for very long.
Further complicating the case is a business deal Alfred Jackson purportedly completed on the day he died, in which he agreed to sell 90 percent of his expectancy interest in Prince’s estate to Primary Wave, a music publishing and talent management company.
Shawn Jackson, of Kansas City, filed suit Dec. 13, 2019, calling into question the validity of the will executed in July 2019 and filed in Jackson County’s probate division by attorney Leonardo da Vinci Starke of Miami, Florida.
Alfred Jackson died without children, surviving parents or a spouse, according to the suit. He was survived by five half-siblings, two of whom also are related to Prince. No family members have filed a competing will.
Instead of leaving Alfred Jackson’s estate to his siblings, the challenged will leaves 100 percent of his estate to Raffles van Exel, an entertainment consultant based in West Hollywood, California. van Exel has been associated with the late singers Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and other celebrities.
Shawn Jackson’s lawsuit alleges that “[van Exel] has a history of searching out celebrities and their family when they are at a low point and then inserting himself into their lives ultimately for his own financial gain or for financial gain of those he is associated with.”
Among those celebrities was Michael Jackson, according to the suit, which alleges that van Exel benefited from the pop star’s death.
van Exel initially was listed as the personal representative of Alfred Jackson’s estate, but he stepped down in November, making Starke the successor personal representative.
Shawn Jackson alleges in his suit that after Alfred Jackson was determined to have an expectancy interest in Prince’s estate, “non-family members began appearing in Alfred’s life” and attempting to befriend Alfred to exert influence over him for their own monetary gain.
In his suit, Shawn Jackson identifies van Exel as one of those people, calling him “a person with a questionable history, and an individual with whom Alfred did not have a lengthy or deep relationship.”
Shawn Jackson contends that van Exel devised a scheme to have Starke draft the will, and have it notarized and executed before witnesses who did not know Alfred Jackson or understand his limitations and medical and psychiatric history.
Alfred Jackson lacked the mental capacity to understand the will and agree to it, according to Shawn Jackson. He said Alfred Jackson suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was being treated with antipsychotic medication.
Alfred Jackson also was unable to manage his financial affairs, suffered from confusion and exhibited childlike characteristics, Shawn Jackson alleged in his suit. He also asserted that Alfred Jackson would have wanted to leave his assets to family.
Starke denied Shawn Jackson’s allegations in his answer to the suit. He is represented by Mark J. Murphy of the Murphy Law Firm in Liberty. Murphy did not respond to a message seeking comment. van Exel also did not respond to a request for comment.
The suit does not explicitly reference the Primary Wave deal, but probate court records shed some light on it. The case record includes an affidavit filed in a Minnesota probate court by Joseph Cassioppi, a Minneapolis-based attorney representing Comerica Bank & Trust, the personal representative of Prince’s estate.
In the affidavit, Cassioppi memorialized a meeting held on the morning of Aug. 29, 2019, between Comerica’s attorneys and Primary Wave attorney Eric Magnuson.
At that meeting, Magnuson informed Comerica that Alfred Jackson had sold 90 percent of his expectancy interest in Prince’s estate to Primary Wave the prior afternoon, Cassioppi said in the filing. Starke represented Alfred Jackson in the negotiations with Primary Wave, Cassioppi said.
Later that day, Magnuson informed Comerica’s attorneys that Alfred Jackson had died the previous night, Cassioppi said.
Starke’s involvement with both the will and the Primary Wave deal have led a Jackson County judge to remove him as the personal representative of Alfred’s estate.
In January, Shawn Jackson filed a motion asking Judge Mark A. Styles Jr. to remove Starke from the role, citing conflicts of interest. On Feb. 21, Styles granted the motion and agreed to appoint a new administrator to oversee the estate.
Brian Jorde of the Domina Law Group in Omaha is representing Shawn Jackson. He said Alfred Jackson’s heirs-at-law are “incredibly concerned” by pre-death transfers and transactions involving his assets.
“Those need to be investigated . . . to get a thorough investigation into all of the players and individuals and events that occurred at that time,” Jorde said.
Jorde said discovery in the case is stayed until a March 24 scheduling conference. Court records show he has sought to obtain records of phone calls between van Exel and Starke.
“I’m going to connect all the dots, and I bet it’s going to turn out that all these people were communicating,” he said. “I bet it’s going to turn out there were very few calls to Alfred himself.”
He also believes discovery will show that a “lot of people with a lot of financial motivations were doing a lot of deals,” he added.
The case is Jackson v. Starke, personal representative of the estate of Alfred Jackson Jr., 1916-CV33231.