James Brown was a true musical legend, a rhythm and blues singer extraordinaire who earned the nickname “The Godfather of Soul.” Brown enjoyed a long and illustrious career and he was truly someone who changed the face of modern music. No less than four of his albums made Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the top 500 album releases of all time. He was a Grammy award winner and one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
“The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” passed away back in 2006 at the age of 73. He had set up a trust that was charged with the responsibility of administering his estate, which is estimated at about $100,000. He stipulated that he wanted all of his wealth to go to poor and underprivileged children.
This seems like a very kind and generous act, but as of this writing the children have not seen any of the money. Tomi Rae Hynie says that she was married to James Brown at the time of his death and that he was the father of her child, James Brown II. In addition to this child Brown had at least eight other children and three ex-wives.
Understandably, Hynie and Brown’s children did not feel as though they should be left with nothing. Since Brown did not update his estate plan after marrying Hynie the state was willing to hear her arguments. And his children are contending that his estate plan did not reflect his true wishes and that he must have signed the documents when he was either mentally incompetent or under undue influence.
Clearly there are a lot of costs associated with such a long and protracted legal battle and they will certainly reduce the amount that is distributed when the case is finally resolved.
The takeaway is to make sure that you get together with an estate planning attorney when your marital status changes so that your estate plan reflects your current situation so that there is no confusion after your death.