I am still thinking about the strange articles I read back in June and July concerning Universal Music Group seeking court approval to nullify a multi-million dollar deal it made with Prince's estate for the rights to release certain of the late great musician's recordings. It turns out that Universal claims that the expiration dates of Prince's agreements with other entities were somehow misrepresented. From what I have read, it seems that no one involved in the deal disputes this and rather than alleging malfeasance, it looks as if this was the end result of Prince's very confused estate. The Probate Judge overseeing the case called it "personal and corporate mayhem" according to the New York Times. You can read the pleadings in the case here: http://www.mncourts.gov/InReTheEstateofPrinceRogersNelson.aspx
One does not have to be a probate lawyer to figure out that a good chunk of the Estate is getting eaten up in legal fees.
As so many commentators have noted, it is shocking (and frankly somewhat sad) that an artist who seemed to be so in control over every aspect of his career could have been so careless in dealing with his legacy. No will, no trust, just a mythical vault full of unreleased material.
The point for every artist and song writer is to first of all make sure you have a will in place that makes some reference to the disposition of your intellectual property and second, make sure you either have a family member or a close trusted advisor who can help navigate through the maze of record deals, publishing deals, licensing deals, performing rights organizations and the new nightmare that is digital rights.
Problems will arise in the best scenarios, and it is not at all unusual for heirs and beneficiaries not to get along with executors and administrators but it's so must easier to deal with this situation when the deceased made his or her intentions clear.