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SC Supreme Court overturns estate settlement out of respect late singer’s wishes

Last Wednesday, the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned a settlement between….. splitting up the soul singer’s estate. According to the court, a former attorney general failed to follow Brown’s wishes when putting the settlement together back in 2009.

Brown, dubbed the Godfather of Soul, was 73 years old when he died of heart failure on Christmas Day back in 2006. The 2009 settlement gave nearly half of Brown’s money to a charitable trust, one quarter to his widow, Tomi Rae Hynie, and the rest to be split up among his adult children. Even now, it isn’t clear how much the singer’s estate is worth, but it is estimated to be with between $5 million and $100 million.

In considering the case, the court found that the settlement ignored Brown’s wishes that most of his money go to charity. The court also ruled that he was of sound mind when he made his will. The court agreed with the lower court’s decision to remove Brown’s original trustees. Members of Brown’s family had wanted them out of there and claimed that they had mismanaged the estate. The dispute came about after the ousted trustees sued.

One of the concerns voiced by the court about the settlement was that, if allowed to stand, it could end up discouraging people from leaving most of their money to charity for fear that their wishes may not be honored. James Brown had wanted much of his estate to go toward supporting education of needy children.

The decision does send the message that courts will intervene if estate settlements do no accurately reflect the wishes of the deceased.

Source: Huffington Post, “James Brown Estate: South Carolina Supreme Court Nixes Settlement,” Meg Kinnard, February 27, 2013

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