There have been few musical performers who have made the impact that James Brown did during his long and illustrious career. The legendary “Godfather of Soul” was known for his spirited performances and funky, soulful style. He was a Grammy award winner, and he is also a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. James Brown certainly made people feel good for a long time, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts. When he passed away in 2006 the value of his estate was placed at approximately $100 million.
Brown had a widow when he passed away, Tomi Rae Hynie, three ex-wives and no less than nine children. Unfortunately for them, James Brown did not include them in his estate at all, and they have in turn challenged the estate.
It seems that Brown had an estate plan drawn up prior to marrying Hynie and having a child with her that left all of his assets to a special trust that was to be administered for the benefit of poor children. A former producer of Brown’s, Jacqueline Hollander, claims that she had an agreement with Brown to manage the trust and that he intentionally disinherited his wife and children.
The court offered a settlement that would have placed half of Brown’s fortune into the special trust, given a fourth of it to Hynie, and have the rest of it divided among his children. This sounds fair enough to all concerned, but two of the trustees (who have since been removed) appealed this decision and Hollander filed suit to prevent the settlement from going through. So at present the estate of James Brown is still in limbo.
This type of case proves that when estate planning attorneys state that your legacy can get hung up in court for years if you do not have an up-to-date estate plan, they are not joking. Things can get long, protracted and messy if you do not have an ironclad plan that is current and reflective of your present situation. Someone on our staff just visited with a colleague the other day whose family had experienced a 10(!) year probate themselves. I’m just sad we couldn’t have helped her family in the first place.
If James Brown’s story has got your wheels turning, don’t worry, you’re not alone. To learn more about why and how to set up an estate plan that is right for your family, or if you simply want to triple-check that your current estate plan will avoid the pitfalls of probate, join us next week for one of our Free Public Educational Programs entitled, “Discover The Myths and Realities of Wills & Living Trusts!”
Register today by clicking HERE. To invite friends, family members, or colleagues you think may benefit from this valuable program, please share THIS LINK or forward this blog along. I look forward to providing you and your family the peace of mind you deserve with your estate plan!
President and Founding Attorney
Parman & Easterday
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