When it comes to probate compromise, the never-ending court battle over James Brown’s estate goes to show just how important it is to find and experienced and trustworthy Nashville probate lawyer to fight on behalf of your legal wishes.
Here in music city people eat, sleep and breath music. From Broadway to West End to Green Hills to across the river in East Nashville and everywhere in around and between, a sweet tune can always be heard. As lovers of music, Nashvillians no doubt hold in high esteem the “hardest working man in show business” and the most popular music star of his time, the legendary Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Even six years after his death his legacy lives on but with that so does the feud over his $100 million music empire. While fans continue to pay tribute to his well lived music career, his heirs have done anything but.
Long before he passed on Christmas Day, 2006, Brown took care of drafting a detailed will and trust in which he clearly laid out his wishes regarding the inheritance of his estate. He left his personal and household effects to be divided among six of his adult children and set aside a sum of two million dollars in trust to pay for the education of his grandchildren. As for the bulk of his estate, he requested it be donated to the “I Feel Good” Trust for providing scholarships to poor students in South Carolina and Georgia. His legal documents (dated August 1, 2000) made it certain that no one else was to benefit–no past or future spouses, nor any others who may or may not be his children. Anyone who made an attempt to challenge his wishes was to be vigorously opposed by his trustees.
Nevertheless, this did not stop his heirs from challenging the validity of his will and trust. As a probate attorney Nashville, I commonly see this happen when a lot of money is involved–people get greedy. Even though Brown’s wishes were clearly defined in legal writing, they were still not given the respect they deserved. In fact, his children went so far as to sue, accusing the estate planning attorney who prepared the documents of exercising undue influence on Brown. Then a woman by the name of Tommie Rae Hynie, claiming to be Brown’s wife, came into the picture saying that she and their son were entitled to one-third of the estate because she and Brown were married after the will and trust had been drafted.
Under South Carolina law, a spouse married after estate plans are put in place, as well as any children born after the fact, have the right to a portion of the estate. That is however unless, as in the Brown case, the will or trust indicates a clear intent that these types of heirs should be excluded. Based on this Hynie had no right to make a claim against Brown’s wishes. To prove her actions even more twisted, not only did she and Brown sign a prenup through which she disclaimed the rights to make a claim against his estate or trust, but there was speculation as to whether or not the two were even legally married, a question that still remains unclear. This is where Brown could have used someone ethical and qualified like a Nemer Law probate attorney Nashville to defend his interests.
After years of contesting Brown’s will in court, the South Carolina attorney general intervened in 2009, proposing a settlement in which one quarter of Brown’s assets would go to Hynie, another 25 percent to Brown’s six children as well as Hynie’s son, and the remaining 50 percent to charity. But just a few weeks ago the deal was overthrown by the South Carolina Supreme Court. Doing what any good probate attorney Nashville would have done in the first place, the Supreme Court ruled that the settlement was not “just and reasonable”, that there was no reason to go against Brown’s intentions and that making such a compromise completely “destroys the estate plan Brown had established.” The dispute has since returned to a lower court for reevaluation in order to settle the estate in such a way that will please Brown’s wishes.
While few will contests are as complex and drawn out as this one, this saga underscores the importance of working with a reputable and experienced probate attorney Nashville who is–above all else–trustworthy. Even for those who don’t have millions a good probate attorney Nashville can make all the difference when it comes to dividing and distributing assets in the event that a loved one dies.
Nemer Law LLC is dedicated to providing clients throughout Nashville and Middle Tennessee with high quality legal representation in the areas of Divorce Law, Probate and Estate Administration, Personal Injury and Business Law. If you’re looking for a top-notch Nashville lawyer you can count on, contact the downtown Nashville office of Nemer Law LLC today at 615.620.0899 to set up your free 30 minute consultation!