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Court Scolds SC Attorney General For Hijacking James Brown Estate

The battle over the estate of the Godfather of Soul started not long after James Brown died of heart failure and pneumonia on Christmas Day, 2006, at the age of 73.  Now, more than six years later, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that may finally lay the epic feud to rest.  

James Brown, February 1973, Musikhalle, Hamburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Brown left behind a detailed will and trust, dated August 1, 2000.  He wanted his personal and household effects divided between six adult children, the sum of two million dollars set aside in trust to pay for the education of his grandchildren, with the rest passing into a charitable trust.  Specifically, he directed that the majority of his assets would be used to pay education expenses and assistance to benefit poor children and young adults who attended schools in either South Carolina or Georgia.

Brown was both physically and mentally strong when he signed his estate planning documents.  His legal documents included clear instructions that he did not want anyone else to benefit, including past or future spouses, or others who may or may not be his children.  He directed his trustees to vigorously fight anyone who contested his wishes, and he considered any type of legal challenge to the validity of the documents as an affront to his wishes.

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Pass The Turkey With A Side of Celebrity Estate Planning Stories (Part I)

What family won’t be talking about Kim Kardashian and Michael Jackson at their Thanksgiving dinner? Dishing celebrity dirt is as natural as turkey and pumpkin pie.  But did you ever think that celebrity gossip could actually help your family?   Kim_Kardashian

We use celebrity stories to turn the often-awkward conversation about estate planning into something fun and entertaining.  Let’s face it … no one really likes to think about planning for what happens after they pass away.  But, it’s the family left behind that pays the price when the proper planning isn’t done.

A great way to get the dialogue flowing, and to turn an awkward conversation into something fun and engaging, is with celebrity stories.  What better time to do this than when the family is gathered together for Thanksgiving?

Here is Part 1 (out of 2) to our Trial & Heirs’ Top 5 Celebrity-Based Estate Planning Conversation Starters for Thanksgiving 2011:

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James Brown Estate Battles Through Debt and Extended Fighting

The Godfather of Soul died on Christmas Day, 2006. His estate has been marred by fighting ever since. Here’s our Forbes recap of the legal troubles which have left James Brown’s estate and wishes in limbo.   James Brown

The Associated Press reported last week that the court battles devastated his estate so much that his charitable trust had dwindled in value all the way down to $14,000, with $20 million of debt, until a 2009 settlement.  This was quite a drop, because original estimates of the value of Brown’s estate came in at the $100 million mark.

The settlement — which was supposed to end all of the fighting — called for about half of Brown’s assets to pass to a charitable trust, with one-quarter going to his widow and the rest passing to all of his children.  The deal also led to the court appointment of a new attorney to administer the estate, Russell Bauknight.

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James Brown Estate Mess Compromises His Final Wishes

The Godfather of Soul passed away on Christmas Day, 2006, and generously left his $100 million fortune to a special trust set up to help poor and needy children.  Yet, four-and-a-half years later, not one child has seen a cent.  Why?   Jamesbrown

The court battle over his final wishes has dragged on … and on … and on, as court fights often do.  While most estate fights are devastating for family members, both emotionally and financially, this one has affected many more — those that needed help the most.  How did this happen?

James Brown passed away with at least nine children, three ex-wives, and a woman who may or may not have been his widow.  This woman, Tomi Rae Hynie, was technically still married to another man when she tied the knot with James Brown (although that marriage was later annulled, reportedly).  Hynie also had a child named James Brown, II, which may or may not have been fathered by Brown.  

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National Television Show Will Help Protect Family Fortunes

After months and months of preparation, this weekend we taped our television show, Trial & Heirs: Protect Your Family Fortune!  Our show will premiere in Michigan on August 9th at 8 p.m. EST and air on PBS affiliates around the country in November and December.  PBS will also stream the broadcast online for the premiere, through UStream.tv, so that everyone would have an opportunity to view the show in August.   Danielle-Andy-film-their-national-TV-special-300x225

The taping included our show with a live studio audience (they were wonderful!), DVD extras from the two of us, and an interview with Ray Charles, Jr.

Ray shared some touching stories about his famous father as well as the private pain that his father’s estate has caused his family.  Ray’s full interview, including some never-before-told stories, will be available as one of the DVD extras.

We share some behind-the-scenes pictures from our production on our Trial & Heirs Facebook page.  If you’re not already a member of our Facebook page, make sure to “like” it so that you receive the latest from us!

Andy and Danielle with Ray Charles, Jr. Our television special is based on our book, Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! In the show, we use high-profile celebrity stories, like Sonny Bono, Marlon Brando, Princess Diana, Michael Jackson and James Brown, to educate people about wills, trusts and estate planning. The TV special will also help raise money to support the wonderful cause of public television, which needs pledge donations now more than ever with federal funding cuts.

With different pledge amounts, viewers can receive the DVD of the show with DVD extras from us as well as our full interview with Ray; a copy of our book, Trial & Heirs; and our brand new Estate Planning Organizer to help you, your family, and your clients.

We hope that all of you join us for the exciting premiere of Trial & Heirs:  Protect Your Family Fortune! on WTVS Channel 56 and UStream.tv, August 9th at 8pm EST!

By Danielle and Andy Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys, and hosts of the national TV special, Trial & Heirs:  Protect Your Family Fortune! The charismatic duo has appeared on the Rachael Ray Show, Forbes, ABC’s Live Well Network, and FOX and NBC affiliates.  They’ve lent their expertise and analysis to hundreds of media sources, including The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, Kiplinger, and The Washington Post, among many others.  Danielle and Andy delight audiences nationwide with highly entertaining and informative presentations, dishing the dirt on celebrity estate battles while dispensing important legal information to help people avoid family fights among their heirs.

For the latest celebrity and high-profile cases, with tips to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your clients, subscribe to The Trial and Heirs Update at www.TrialandHeirs.com.

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James Brown Estate Battle Still Rocking On!

The battle over James Brown’s final wishes began very shortly after the Godfather of Soul passed away on Christmas Day of 2006. And it’s still going strong.  James_Brown-1

The probate judge approved a settlement among his heirs in 2009, seemingly ending the fight then. One-half of his estate was to pass to charity through a trust, and the other one-half divided between his widow and his children. You can read about the prior settlement here.

But don’t forget about his former manager! What does she have to do with anything? It seems that Jacquelyne Hollander believes she should have been involved in the settlement too. She didn’t like being left out.

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New Book To Help Avoid Celebrity Estate Planning Blunders

“Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!” Explores High-Profile Cases & Offers Expert Advice



The highly publicized estate battles of several deceased celebrities have cast a bright spotlight on the importance of having the proper estate planning. Although mega-rich celebrities seem to be affected overwhelmingly by these brutal family squabbles, the new book


"Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!" is designed to help every family, regardless of income level, avoid the financial pitfalls that drained bank accounts and created huge family rifts for the dozens of superstars profiled in the book. 

“Trial & Heirs” uses real stories to help readers steer clear of the same celebrity “estate errors” as they plan for their own “heirs.” The stories cover well known legal fights over famous fortunes: including the recent battles over Michael Jackson’s estate, along with other celebrities like Ted Kennedy; Anna Nicole Smith; Brooke Astor; Heath Ledger, Ray Charles; Princess Di; Jimi Hendrix; Frank Sinatra; Martin Luther King Jr.; and Rosa Parks… as well as many others that most people aren’t even aware of.  The book gives readers a front row seat in the courtroom while the authors replay the “tabloid drama”, point out what went wrong in these riveting cases, and teach readers how to avoid similar errors.

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