Trusts & Estates

James Brown estate settlement overturned by state Supreme Court


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James Brown. miqu77 / Shutterstock.com

The South Carolina Supreme Court has overturned a settlement of the late singer James Brown’s multimillion-dollar estate.

In its ruling Wednesday, the court chastised former state attorney general Henry McMaster, who brokered the settlement between Brown’s survivors, for turning a blind eye to the late singer’s wishes, the Associated Press reports.

McMaster negotiated a settlement in 2009 that split Brown’s estate between a charitable trust, his widow, Tomi Rae Hyne, and his adult children.

But the court held that the deal ignored Brown’s last wish that most of his money go to charity. It also said that Brown was of sound mind and body when he made his will before dying of heart failure Christmas Day in 2006 at the age of 73.

The court sent the case back to a lower court for reconsideration.

Chief Justice Jean Toal suggested that the deal hammered out by McMaster would discourage people from leaving their estate to charity for fear that their wishes would be ignored.

Associate Justice John Kittredge said the compromise orchestrated by McMaster destroyed the estate plan established by Brown, giving large sums of money to relatives who were given little or no control in the singer’s will.

McMaster, who left office in 2010, said that while he respected the court’s decision, he stood by the settlement he engineered.

“I believe we took the correct legal steps to make the very best of a bad situation,” he said.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com (2008): “Suit Against James Brown’s Lawyers and Greenberg Traurig as Wild as Singer’s Life”

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