In our previous post, we began discussing the estate of deceased soul musician James Brown, particularly the battle between those who say Brown wished to give his entire estate to charity, and his family, who say that Brown intended to provide for them.
We left off describing a failed 2009 settlement between Brown's family and the Attorney General office of South Carolina. That settlement-which would have cut Brown's charitable intent in half-faltered when two of Brown's former trustees and a former producer appealed the court's decision to approve the settlement and argued that his intent was clear that he wished to establish a trust to assist poor and needy children. According to the former trustees, that intent, which was expressed in his estate planning documents, has not been found invalid. At present, the South Carolina Supreme Court is considering the appeal. According to Brown's former producer, he assigned all his assets to the trust, and claimed she had proof of his intent.
According to Brown's adult children, his estate planning documents don't reflect what he actually wished to do with his estate. They argue that there may have been mental incompetency or undue influence in the preparation of those documents. They also point out that he failed to update his estate planning documents after his final marriage and the birth of his son by that marriage.
As the Forbes article points out, the protracted legal battles are going to take a chunk out of Brown's estate and leave less to be donated to the cause for which it was intended. The lesson in the Brown estate battle is basically this: careful estate planning is important, particularly where there are a lot of assets, contentious relations, and multiple marriages and children.
Source: Forbes, "James Brown's Estate and Wishes Remain in Limbo," Danielle, Andy Mayoras, August 8, 2011.