So far 17 states have explicit laws that protect a person's name, image and likeness after death, known as right to publicity laws. These laws provide that a celebrity's image can be controlled by his or her estate and prevent its use by others for commercial purposes.
Minnesota is not one of those 17 states, which creates an issue for the estate of Prince.
Without such a law, it is possible the scope of his estate's rights to control his publicity would be the subject of litigation.
WDAZ reports, in an article titled "PRINCE Act appears in Minn. Legislature," that Minnesota is rushing to consider the Personal Rights In Names Can Endure Act to protect the musician's rights to publicity.
The law inspired by the musician would protect people's names, photographs, likenesses, voices and signatures for up to 50 years.
While passing this law might seem like an easy call, there is a potential downside for Prince's estate.
As Michael Jackson's estate is discovering, if a celebrity's publicity rights have value, then the IRS can seek to collect estate taxes on that value. The value of Jackson's publicity rights are at the center of his estate's dispute with the IRS.
In Prince's case, he apparently did not have a will or any other form of estate plan when he died. That means none of his estate is protected from the estate tax.
Winning this particular battle to protect Prince's publicity could actually cost the estate millions of dollars should the IRS seek to collect estate taxes on the value of the publicity rights.
Not having an estate plan will make Prince's estate difficult to administer. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you create your legacy and ensure that your wishes are carried out correctly.
Reference: WDAZ (May 10, 2016) "PRINCE Act appears in Minn. Legislature"