Nearly 14 years after the acclaimed Godfather of Soul's death, the feud over his estate might finally be coming to a close. Distributing a celebrity's estate is typically never a straightforward matter, but the James Brown case has been especially drawn out for a few reasons, in particular. Let's explore the conclusion the courts have finally come to after more than a decade of proceedings, and what that means moving his case forward.
There are many reasons why a will may be disputed by a family member. In the case of James Brown, his fourth wife (and spouse at the time of his death), Tomi Rae Hynie contested his will. Forbes outlined the situation, explaining that Hynie and Brown married in 2001, but Hynie was still legally married to another man. She had not divorced or annulled the marriage by the time she married Brown.
The legal proceedings for Brown's will are being completed in his home state of South Carolina in the U.S., where there are strict laws surrounding bigamy. Due to Hynie's circumstances, in the eyes of the court their marriage would have been invalid, as you cannot be legally married to two people at once. This distinction would drastically weaken Hynie's claim to Brown's estate, which could be valued at $100 million.
However, this isn't the only piece of information that is slowing down court proceedings. Hynie also had a son, named James Brown II, who she claims is James Brown's biological heir. While Brown's other children voiced speculation that this could not be true, subsequent DNA testing proved he was the legendary soul bandleader's biological son. This further complicated the situation, but also helped move the case forward.
According to a recent report from The New York Times, Brown has left the majority of his large estate to underprivileged students in South Carolina and Georgia. However, due to the aforementioned proceedings, no scholarships had been distributed, much to the dismay of the judge overruling this case.
Now, the state's Supreme Court has officially ruled that Hynie was not legally married to Brown due to bigamy statutes. This move forward ultimately made is so Hynie had no grounds to contest the will, and the court can proceed with doling out Browns estate to those he intended to give it to.
Not everybody has as large an estate as the Godfather of Soul, but this all goes to show how complicated things can get following an individual's death. Also, it shows the importance of having a carefully prepared will. If you or a loved one have questions about contesting a will, Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers are here to help.