The late James Brown passed 11 years ago, yet his estate is not yet settled. His estate plan did not distribute his wealth well, according to a report, and in reality, not a cent has gone to his beneficiaries. The report states that there have been dozens of disputes filed against his estate, which makes it impossible to dole out the funds to the man's beneficiaries.
One case involves Brown's children and grandchildren. They're suing and claiming that the man's widow made "backroom agreements," surrounding the copyrights of Brown's songs, which would be illegal. Several others have contested the will stating that they should have been trustees or beneficiaries, respectively.
Brown's will had set aside $2 million for his grandchildren. He also gave his costumes and household items to his six recognized children, which did leave out at least one estranged son. The majority of his estate was left to the I Feel Good Trust.
There is also a question as to the total worth of the estate, which is being challenged. It's believed that the rights to the singer's 900-or-so songs could be worth millions, since his widow sold the rights to five songs for close to $1.9 million. The problem with the sale is that copyright terminations typically have to be approved by spouses and their children. In this case, it's believed that the widow did not inform the children of the sale, which deprived them of their termination interests.
Cases like this show how important it is to have a solid will. With good planning, you can avoid will contests and other hassles that make it hard to implement your wishes.
Source: The New York Times, "Why Is James Brown’s Estate Still Unsettled? Ask the Lawyers," Steve Knopper, Feb. 04, 2018