King of Soul's estate encounters another dispute

Ray Charles, King of Soul, left behind a troublesome estate he died in 2004, which has been interested to consider from the perspective of estate planning. As we've noted on this blog, one of the goals of estate planning is to wind up one's affairs and so minimize the possibility of legal disputes concerning one's estate down the road. Needless to say, it can be difficult to tie up all loose ends.

The latest development regarding the Ray Charles estate involves a dispute between seven of his children and the Ray Charles Foundation, which Charles established to fund education in the area of hearing disorders. The foundation reportedly seeks as much as $3.5 million in compensation for their decision to terminate the transfer of copyrights to dozens of Charles' songs to the foundation.

The termination, according to the foundation, violated an agreement Charles entered into with his children in 2002.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court, claims that Charles promised to establish irrevocable trusts in the amount of $500,000 for the benefit of each of his twelve children in exchange for their waiver of any further interests in his estate. The foundation claims that Charles intended to leave most of his estate to charitable purposes to benefit disabled and disadvantaged youth.

At the time the copyright transfer notices were terminated, the children had all apparently received the entirety of their inheritance, and were allegedly in breach of contract.

Of course, nobody wishes trouble on a deceased person's estate, but it will be interestingly to see how this case plays out, particularly how Charles' children will support their right to terminate the copyright transfers.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Ray Charles Foundation Sues Seven of His Kids," Dan McCue, April 2, 2012.

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