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James Brown’s Estate Is Still Unsettled

Eleven years after the death of James Brown, his estate planning has fallen short in the plan to distribute his wealth efficiently. None of the beneficiaries in the will have received even a dime of the money. This includes underprivileged children in South Carolina and Georgia. Mr. Brown intended to donate significant amounts of money to these entities, however, a number of legal disputes have emerged and kept the estate dispute alive for more than 10 years. A dozen separate lawsuits related to the estate were initially filed after Mr. Brown passed away in 2006 on Christmas Day. The most recent of these was filed last month in California. 

Nine of the children and grandchildren of Mr. Brown are suing the widow and the estate administrator, arguing that copyright deals made by the widow were improper and illegal. Another lawsuit alleges that the widow was not actually ever James Brown’s wife. His will initially set aside $2 million to underwrite scholarships for his grandchildren and it gave his household effects and costumes to the six children he did recognize, a bequest that was estimated approximately $2 million.

The will was challenged, however, and an initial settlement was proposed that would give the children and grandchildren a quarter of the estate and the widow another quarter. However, that was overturned by the Supreme Court due to asset distribution that did not appear to be in line with James Brown’s original goals.



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