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Probate judge approves James Brown estate settlement

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.James Brown

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. 

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The James Brown Estate Battle: Keeping Probate Lawyers Busy

The Godfather of Soul died during the early morning hours of Christmas Day, 2006.  It did not take long after that for the fireworks to start.  Brown left behind at least 4 women he had married, along with 6 children through marriage and 3 others who may or may not have been fathered by Brown from women he hadn't married.James Brown

And Brown made plans for all of them -- well, most of them at least.  In 2000, he created a will covering his personal property.  He then used a different estate planning attorney to create an irrevocable living trust to pass his musical legacy, image rights, businesses, and his South Carolina Island Estate to charity to benefit underprivileged students.  His total estate is valued at around $80 million, but with substantial debt.  The value can only grow if his image and song rights are properly managed.

Some of his children were not happy with so much of his property passing to charity.  Others wanted to honor his wishes.  Some challenged the trustee and estate administrators for improper management.  They even fought over where and how to bury his body.  Enough to keep those probate lawyers busy?  Wait, there's more.

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