James Brown's family settles 15-year court battle over his estate

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Jo Hale/Getty Images James Brown in October 2006

A 15-year legal battle over the estate of James Brown has come to an end, as the late singer's family has reached a settlement in the case, according to the Associated Press.

David Black, an attorney representing Brown's estate, told the AP that an agreement was reached on July 9, but details of the settlement were not made public.

The Godfather of Soul's estate, estimated to be worth anywhere from $5 million to more than $100 million, has been embroiled in litigation since his death on Christmas Day 2006, with more than a dozen lawsuits filed over the years. One of the central figures in the proceedings was Brown's former partner Tomi Rae Hynie, who has claimed to be his fourth and last wife. Hynie, who is the mother of one of Brown's children, was not named in the singer's will, and has long argued she is entitled to a portion of the estate due to their marriage.

This proved to be a slippery issue, however. In June 2020, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that Hynie was never legally married to Brown because her previous marriage had not been officially annulled. At the time of Hynie's marriage to Brown in 2001, she was married to another man who, she later learned, had three wives in his native Pakistan. While Hynie's lawyers argued that her husband's other wives made their marriage invalid, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the union had never "been 'declared void' by an order of a competent court."

In its ruling, the Supreme Court also ordered a lower court to "promptly proceed with the probate of Brown's estate in accordance with his estate plan," which outlined a charitable trust to fund scholarships for underprivileged children in South Carolina and Georgia.

"His intent is finally going to be carried out, and it's going to benefit the children of South Carolina and Georgia," Dylan Malagrinò, a professor at the Charleston School of Law in South Carolina, told The New York Times last year. "Most people are going to look at that and think that's a really good outcome."

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