Estate planning and administration are not always a clean, tidy job. Sometimes there are disagreements about how the estate is disposed, even where the documents seem clear enough.
When the "Godfather of Soul"-James Brown-died, he left $100 million to a special trust established for assisting poor and needy children. As yet, none of that money has been put to its intended use, due to a protracted court battle involving Brown's family and those who say his intentions to give to the poor were clear.
At the time of his death, James Brown had at least nine children, three ex-wives, and another woman who claimed to be his widow and to have borne his child. The woman, however, was still married to another man when she married Brown. Sources said that marriage is said to have been annulled later on though. To make matters more complicated, Brown apparently failed to update his will and trust during the course of his marriage to her, and it is not clear whether he intended to include his son by her in his estate plan.
While many-including his former attorney and a former producer-say that Brown clearly wished his money to go to needy children, and not his own, his widow and adult children have taken issue with that assumption
The extended court battle seemed as if it would reach a conclusion back in 2009. At that time, the Attorney General's office of South Carolina reached a settlement with Brown's family in which 50 percent of the estate would go toward Brown's charitable intentions, and the other half would be split among Brown's family, one-quarter going to his widow and another quarter going to all the children, including his widow's son.
Unfortunately, that settlement wasn't able to settle things. We'll continue speaking about the James Brown estate battle in our next post.
Source: Forbes, "James Brown's Estate and Wishes Remain in Limbo," Danielle, Andy Mayoras, August 8, 2011.