James Brown’s widow feels good after judge approves estate settlement

By Calvin Palmer

The Godfather of Soul’s estate has finally been divided up in a settlement approved by a South Carolina judge today.

Nearly half of soul legend James Brown’s estate will go to his charitable trust, about a quarter to his wife and young son and the rest to Brown’s adult children.

Following Brown’s death on Christmas Day 2006 some of his adult children had contested the singer’s will, claiming their father’s estate was mismanaged by trustees.

In his ruling, Judge Jack Early wrote: “I find that the settlement is just and reasonable and provides a just and reasonable result for the charitable beneficiaries.

“From the perspective of the charitable beneficiaries, the risks of not approving the settlement agreement are substantial.”

The exact value of Brown’s assets has not been made public. Since his death claims of unpaid debts, inadequate accounting and misappropriate money have circulated.

Some of the soul singer’s possessions were auctioned for $850,000, partly to pay debt.

Attorneys say the real issue is future income from movies, royalties and the sale of Brown’s likeness.

The settlement establishes that Tomi Rae Hynie Brown is the surviving spouse of the Godfather of Soul and her son is James Brown’s child. James Brown II will not be required to take a DNA test.

“I am so relieved and happy that the court has approved this settlement,” Hynie Brown said in a statement. “I want to be able to work with the trustees and other Brown family members to promote James Brown’s legacy. My son James and I are grateful to the judge and hope this nightmare is finally over.”

The ruling should end the legal rifts that have surrounded Brown’s estate.

A will filed in Aiken County in January 2007, called for many of Brown’s personal possessions — clothes, jewelry, boats and automobiles — to be divided among six of his adult children. But the legitimacy of the will and trust was quickly called into question.

Louis Levenson, an attorney for Brown’s adult children, said he had not yet reviewed the judge’s order.

[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]

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