James Brown Estate: Update on the Lengthy and Contentious Battle Over Soul Singer’s Estate

james-brownJames Brown, the Godfather of Soul, passed away from heart failure on Christmas day in 2006 at 73 years of age.  Not long before his death, Brown had created a will to explain how he wished for his assets to be distributed.  Unfortunately, a will does not guarantee that your wishes will be met when your estate goes through probate.  The will is more like a set of guidelines to instruct the judge how to distribute the assets.  If people do not agree with the dictates of the will, or feel that the will is not valid, they can legally contest the document.  This can lead to a very long and costly judicial process.

Over six years after Brown’s death the estate is still going through court battles.  In 2009, Attorney General Henry McMaster brokered a settlement on the estate that gave half to a charitable trust, a quarter to Brown’s widow, Tomi Rae Hynie, and the remainder was to be divided among his adult children.  This ruling, however, was contested and was just overturned on Wednesday, February 27th by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court stated that the settlement in 2009 did not meet Brown’s intended goals for the estate.  In his will, Brown, an advocate for education, makes it clear that he wishes for the majority of his estate to go to charity to help needy students to receive educations including at a collegiate level.  The justices ruled that the singer was of sound mind when he created his will and that the wishes of his will should be honored.  They did uphold the decision to have the original trustees removed from management of the estate as they had mismanaged the assets near to bankruptcy.  The court has sent the estate matters back to a lower court to reconsider and finalize matters.

Due to the lengthy process in court matters and this estate having to go back to another court for reconsideration, it could be another year or two before another agreement is reached.  Hopefully, this time, it will be an agreement that will hold.  This is yet another example of why we recommend a living trust – it avoids these lengthy court proceedings and distributes your assets according to your wishes while providing vital protections to the assets, surviving spouse and any beneficiaries.

For more information or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today at 888.222.1328.

About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

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