James Brown’s Family Settles 15-Year Dispute Over Estate

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The family of late singer James Brown has reached a settlement deal in the 15-year dispute over his estate, according to the Associated Press.

The attorney representing Brown’s estate, David Black, told the AP that the settlement had been reached on July 9, though the details of the agreement were not made public.

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The estate of Brown, who died at 73 on Dec. 25, 2006, has been plagued by more than a dozen lawsuits since his death. One of the most prominent was that of Tomi Rae Hynie, Brown’s former partner and mother of one of his children who claimed to be his fourth and last wife. But in June 2020, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled the marriage invalid, determining that Hynie had not been legally married to Brown and therefore did not have a right to his assets, which courts have estimated could range from $5 million to $100 million. If determined to be his widow, Hynie could have had the right to at least a third of his estate, as the New York Times reports.

According to the New York Times, Hynie’s marriage to Brown was deemed invalid because at the time of their marriage in 2001, Hynie was married to another man, who she had discovered had three wives in Pakistan. Hynie’s lawyers had argued that because Hynie’s former husband had several other marriages, their marriage was void — but citing a 2008 ruling, the South Carolina Supreme Court said that the marriage had not been officially declared invalid by a “competent court,” as the New York Times reports.

Now that a settlement deal has been reached and Hynie is not involved in the estate, Brown’s children are expected to gain the copyright termination rights for Brown’s publishing deals, according to the New York Times. This also likely gives them control over Brown’s desire expressed in his will to establish scholarships to underprivileged children in South Carolina and Georgia.

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