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Disputes Threaten Late Soul Singer's Charitable Plans

By February 2, 2012Celebrity Estates

After soul singer James Brown's 2006 death, years of court battles whittled his estate down to almost nothing. Before his heirs finally reached a settlement in 2009, family disputes had caused Brown's charitable trust to shrink to a mere $14,000. At the time of his death, the singer's estate was valued at approximately $100 million.

The settlement was finally reached after an attorney named Russell Bauknight was brought in to administer the estate. Bauknight negotiated a deal wherein half of Brown's estate would go to a charitable trust that would fund college educations for needy children. The singer's widow would receive a quarter of the estate, and the remainder would pass to his adult children.

Bauknight was also able to wipe out more than $20 million in debt Brown had accrued before his death by hiring a music manager to license the singer's music for commercial use.

Brown's charitable trust is now financially healthy and ready to start paying scholarships.

However, a lawsuit by the estate's former trustees threatens to undo all of Bauknight's work. The former trustees claim they are entitled to a share of the estate and are suing to have the settlement reorganized.

Careful Estate Planning Prevents Problems

James Brown's estate problems may be high-profile, but they are certainly not rare. The singer fell into trouble for the exact same reason most people do - poor estate planning.

Brown didn't update his estate planning documents after marrying his most recent wife or after the subsequent birth of his youngest child, James Brown II. His family also claimed that he was subject to undue influence when he decided where his assets would go.

It is important to ensure estate plans are updated every time there is a change to the family such as a marriage, birth, divorce or death.

Don't wait to have your estate plan drafted or updated. It's a grim thought, but you never know when something unexpected could happen. Plus, if you wait until you are ailing or elderly, you could inadvertently open the doors to a court challenge as your heirs could claim you created your plan when you were not mentally competent.

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, powers of attorney, 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, insuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, 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!

Source: Forbes, Court Battles and Debt Leave James Brown Estate Not Feeling Good, Danielle and Andy Mayoras

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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