After years of feuding, and months of waiting since reaching a deal, the Godfather of Soul's family and beneficiaries finally have put the will and trust contest lawsuit to rest. My article about the lawsuit and the tentative settlement is here.
The settlement, reached in January, seemed to resolve a dispute about whether Brown's marriage to Tomi Rae Hynie Brown was legitimate (her prior marriage may not have been legally ended before she married Brown) and whether Hynie's son, James Brown II was really his son. Brown's will and trust left nothing to them -- but he hadn't updated them since his marriage to Hynie. Why didn't he update his estate plan during the five years of his marriage before he died on Christmas Day, 2006? We'll never know, but the law assumes his omission was accidental.
The settlement gave about one-quarter of his total estate and trust assets to Hynie and her son, another quarter to his six adult children, and one-half to charity (through his charitable trust). The probate judge in South Carolina presiding over the estate initially refused to approve the settlement, wanting more information and concerned about whether it was fair enough to the charitable beneficiaries.