Archive for the ‘Carlin Williams’ Tag

Prince’s Million Dollar a Mile Mistake

Originally published in the Cedar Street Times

June 10, 2016

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have certainly heard by now that musician, Prince Rogers Nelson, passed away on April 21, 2016.  Unfortunately, he did no advance estate planning which means it is going to be an expensive, public, and litigious affair that will probably last for years.

I have seen estimates of his net worth in the media ranging from $250-$800 million.  Obviously, there is all the easy stuff to value – cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, and personal property.  But putting a value on things like his future royalties on music sales, video sales, his brand image, licensing of his lyrics or music to other artists to cover his songs, etc. is quite a task.

And what about the purported 2,000 or so unreleased songs he is said to have.  How many hits are in there?  Do you think an appraiser is going to sit in a room and listen to songs or read sheet music and put a value on each of them?  And once they come up with a dollar figure, then they have to discount it to the present value, so they would really need to consult their crystal ball for future interest rates, etc.

At one point in my career I worked with the family of a famous deceased musician, and I can tell you first hand that a lot of future value will be determined by how well his heirs maintain or expand the “Prince business machine” that will continue to promote his music and keep it alive, and keep people buying it.  And if the estate gets split up between multiple heirs that do not know each other, there will certainly be a decrease in value.  The last I checked, there was a sister, three half-siblings, and two people claiming to be his son, one of which is in prison, all vying for a piece of Prince’s estate.  So you might have to work with all of these people to buy the rights you need!

Prince certainly is not the first musician to have his estate valued, and there are accepted norms of how appraisers come to values, but I can tell you this much, whatever number they come to will not even be close to correct!  And there will certainly be a lot of negotiating between IRS appraisers and appraisers hired by Bremer Trust, the wealth management firm appointed to handle his estate.

And by the way, all of this is supposed to be done and estate taxes calculated and paid within nine months…in a perfect world.  The Form 706 United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, which will list every single asset in his estate, (right down to the change in his pockets) with descriptions, values, and support for valuations is due January 21, 2017.  It is the mother of all tax returns.

The administrator of the estate can file a six month extension for the return, and the IRS can grant an additional year to pay the tax, but interest will start accruing on any unpaid tax after January 21st.  In situations with reasonable cause, the IRS can grant additional one year extensions for up to four and sometimes up to 10 years to pay the tax.  Although, they could also be assessed additional penalties.  The estate could also do an installment agreement for up to 14 years to pay the tax over time.

The extensions of time to pay, although not granted easily, are  designed to protect the interests of the heirs and the IRS.  With a massive estate and so many unknown quantities and litigation, you would have to have a fire sale to generate enough cash to pay the estate tax within nine months.

So how much estate tax will be paid?

The federal return will provide for a $5.45 million exemption for people dying in 2016.  That assumes that he made no lifetime gifts over the annual exclusion amount (currently $14,000 per person per year, and less in prior years).  It would be silly to assume someone of his wealth made no large gifts to individuals during his lifetime.  From what I have read about Prince, he probably made quite a few.  Any gifts he made in excess of the annual exclusion amounts would reduce his $5.45 million exemption.  For simplicity, though, let’s assume he made none.  So the first $5.45 million is tax free.  The rate of tax then slides from 18 percent on value in excess of $5.45 million to the top rate of 40 percent on everything over $6.45 million.  So for the first $6.45 million of his estate, a tax of $345,800 will be paid, and then 40 percent on everything over that.

Let’s assume his estate ends up being valued at $550 million and there ends up being $50 million in litigation and estate expenses leaving $500 million potentially taxable.  His federal estate tax would be $197,765,800.

Ahh, but Prince lived in Minnesota!  He was unfortunate enough to make his home in one of the 19 states (plus Washington DC) that have their own estate and/or inheritance tax.

Due to his residency the estate will also need to file a Form M706, the Minnesota equivalent of the federal Form 706. Minnesota will have a $1.6 million exemption.  The rate of tax then slides from ten percent on value in excess of $1.6 million to the top rate of 16 percent on everything over $10,300,000.  So for the first $10,300,000 of his estate a tax of $1,080,000 will be paid, and $1,600,000 for each additional $10,000,000.  So his Minnesota estate tax will be $79,432,000.

The Minnesota estate tax paid will fortunately be an additional deduction on the federal return.  So 40 percent of $79,432,000 will reduce the federal estate tax bill by $31,772,800, resulting in a $165,993,000 balance.

That will bring his total estate tax bill to $245,425,000, or roughly 49 percent, leaving his heirs with $254,575,000 to split up.

Besides all of the typical and sometimes fancy estate planning that could have been done to avoid costly litigation, and perhaps save tax through things like irrevocable life insurance trusts and other tricks up an estate planners sleeve,  I wonder if he ever simply considered setting up shop 45 miles away across the St. Croix river in Wisconsin?  It might have saved his estate $47 million – that is over $1 million per mile!

Although most people do not have $245 million estate tax bills for their heirs to worry about (or any estate tax at all), planning in advance and understanding the rules surrounding your tax and financial life is always important.  Sometimes even little things, learned early, can make a big difference.  And building a relationship with someone that can keep you on the right track is certainly of value.

Prior articles are republished on my website at www.tlongcpa.com/blog .

Travis H. Long, CPA, Inc. is located at 706-B Forest Avenue, PG, 93950 and focuses on trust, estate, individual, and business taxation. Travis can be reached at 831-333-1041. This article is for educational purposes.  Although believed to be accurate in most situations, it does not constitute professional advice or establish a client relationship.

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