Would James Brown Feel Good About His Estate Plan?

Aug 14, 2014

James Brown reminds us again to “Get on Up” to Estate Planning

Recently, the highly anticipated movie “Get on Up” staring Chadwick Boseman hit theaters. Like many, I rushed to the theater to see the movie based on the incredible life story of the Godfather of Soul. The movie was an entertaining depiction of his personal journey from an impoverished childhood, through personal struggles as an adult and his ultimate rise to iconic status. Yet, I could not watch the movie without remembering the battle over the Brown Estate.  I could not watch the movie without thinking how so many individuals here in Virginia also fail to complete proper estate plans.

James Brown, born James Joseph Brown, Jr. died December 25, 2006.  However, it was not until May 8, 2013 that the South Carolina Supreme Court ended a historic battle in the six-year fight over the multi-million dollar estate of the music legend.  In his estate plan, Brown left his worldwide music empire to an education charity for needy students in South Carolina and Georgia called the “I Feel Good” trust. Brown left personal and household effects to six of his children named in his Last Will and Testament. For certain grandchildren, he set up a family education fund of up to $2 million. To his companion Tomirae Hynie, who claimed to be his legal wife, he left nothing.  Some of the children contested the will, asking for a greater share than Brown left to them, as did Hynie, who claimed to be Brown’s wife even though she was married to another man when she and Brown exchanged vows in 2001.

Brown’s failure to have a proper up-to-date estate plan led to countless fights and arguments.  Truly, no one knows if the Godfather of Soul would have included the omitted children from his plan and how he would have actually wanted money dispersed to his charity.

Working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can make sure your wishes for  your estate are followed.  And that’s something you can feel good about.

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