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Twelve years and counting: musical icon’s estate battle rages on

One-of-a-kind musical legend James Brown was something to behold on a stage when the music kicked in. And a recent Forbes article notes that even now, nearly a dozen years after his death, legions of people still regard the pop/soul icon “with rapt fascination.”

Brown died in late 2006, leaving an estate plan that he hoped would be duly sorted through and settled in timely fashion and without material issues.

Let’s just say that a post-mortem disconnect surfaced between what the entertainer wanted and what has transpired since Brown’s will was admitted to probate back in January 2007.

Bottom line: the rapt fascination with Brown continues, and it now has as much to do with estate litigation as it does his musical persona and catalogue.

We alluded to the so-called Godfather of Soul’s estate-linked litigation woes in an earlier blog post this year, noting in our February 15 entry that the problems surrounding Brown’s estate are “collective, complex and enduringly knotty.”

As true as that was eight months ago, it seems even more the case presently. Forbes stresses that “the battle for Brown’s estate … shows no signs of stopping as it approaches its 13th year.”

These are just a few of the issues that have clogged both state and federal courts in multiple jurisdictions over the years:

  • Whether Brown was even married to a woman he claimed as his wife and who challenged his will (the Forbes link above provides access to the details of a most convoluted story)
  • Whether a man claiming to be Brown’s heir was truly his biological son
  • Whether Brown’s widow and son or another branch of contesting heirs commands ownership rights of Brown’s vast and profitable musical trove
  • Whether Brown was competent to craft his estate plan or, conversely, was incapacitated by severe substance abuse problems

We noted in our above-cited firm post that more than 12 estate-tied lawsuits have been filed over the years.

More seem destined to come. Forbes notes the likelihood that the parties interested in Brown’s estates will “be locked in financially and emotionally costly litigation for the foreseeable future.”

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