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Judge considers settlements involving Prince heir’s estate

In this May 19, 2013 file photo, Prince performs at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

In this May 19, 2013 file photo, Prince performs at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

After more than a year of litigation and multiple will contests, a Jackson County judge is reviewing two settlements that would resolve all pending claims against the estate of a Missouri man who was the half-brother and a partial heir of the late pop icon Prince.

Attorneys for the parties met remotely on Feb. 25 for a settlement hearing. Terms of the two settlements are confidential, but some details were shared in open court, including that one of the settlements would result in the sale of the heir’s remaining expectancy interest of Prince’s estate. 

The cases stem from the death in 2019 of Alfred Jackson Jr., 66, of Lee’s Summit. Jackson and Prince, born Prince Rogers Nelson, were sons of the same mother, Mattie Baker, and Jackson was in line to inherit part of Prince’s estate. 

Prince, 57, died in April 2016 in Minnesota of an accidental fentanyl overdose. He did not have a will when he died, prompting a high-profile dispute about who should inherit his estate, which is estimated to be worth between $100-300 million. Its value is largely tied to Prince’s intellectual property and music rights.

In 2017, a Minnesota judge decided Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, and his five half-siblings would split Prince’s estate. It still has not been divided among the family members, however, because it remains tied up in various legal battles. 

Alfred Jackson died of heart disease in August 2019. His half-brother, Shawn Jackson — who is not related to Prince — contested his will in December 2019 in Jackson County. Shawn Jackson alleged that Alfred Jackson lacked the capacity to execute a will that bypassed his living siblings and instead left 100 percent of his estate to Raffles van Exel, a California entertainment consultant with ties to the late singers Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and other celebrities. 

In his suit, Shawn Jackson alleged that van Exel ingratiated himself with Alfred Jackson after learning that Alfred Jackson had an expectancy interest in Prince’s estate. He also contended that van Exel devised a scheme to have Florida attorney Leonardo DaVinci Starke draft the will and have it notarized and executed before witnesses who did not know Alfred Jackson or understand his medical and psychiatric history and limitations.

An additional wrinkle in the case: Alfred Jackson purportedly agreed on the day he died to sell 90 percent of his expectancy interest in Prince’s estate to Primary Wave, a music publishing company. 

Starke and another attorney who’d represented Alfred Jackson, Justin Bruntjen of Minnesota, also contested Jackson’s will in 2020. Bruntjen asserted that a 2016 will naming Alfred Jackson’s half-siblings as beneficiaries was the valid will. The three cases were consolidated for the Feb. 25 hearing, and one global settlement would resolve all three, the lawyers told Jackson County Circuit Judge Mark A. Styles Jr. 

Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson, who is also Alfred Jackson’s half-sister, waived her appearance at the hearing, but she indicated in a court filing that she supported the settlements, the lawyers noted.

Timothy J. Murphy of Murphy & Tobin in Kansas City, who was appointed as Alfred Jackson’s estate administrator, told Styles the settlement was a compromise. Nobody got everything they wanted, but he supports the settlement, he said. 

“I think this is very much in the best interest of the estate,” he said. 

In addition to the will challenges, Styles is reviewing a settlement that would conclude Primary Wave’s separate claims against the estate, including seeking to enforce a contract.  

The company’s attorney, Dan Wheeler of Kirkland Woods & Martinsen in Liberty, said that as part of the settlement, the estate agreed to sell the remaining 10 percent of Alfred Jackson’s expectancy interest to Primary Wave. Styles took both settlements under advisement. 

The cases are Primary Wave IP Investment Management LLC v. Murphy, 20P9-PR00629; Jackson Living Trust 2016 v. Starke, 2016-CV14228; Jackson v. Starke, 1916-CV33231; and Starke v. Administrator Pendente Lite, 20P9-PR00945. 

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