Brown, Garcia & Hendrix--- Estate Nightmares?

by James "Mitch" Mitchell and Tamera H. Bennett

James Brown, Jerry Garcia, and Jimi Hendrix all held very different spots in the world of music and entertainment, though there is some arguable overlap given the extent of each one's influence. Yet, one thing they most certainly all have in common after their respective deaths concerns problems in handling their considerable assets, including royalty and trademark rights.

This is a three part blog post taking a look at the interesting twist, turns and legal wrangling by these guys' heirs and other third parties.

James Brown James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, died Christmas Day 2006 from congestive heart failure resulting from complications of pneumonia.  Problems with Brown's estate came to the surface when it was clear that his wife at the time of his death, Tomi Rae Hynie, and the child from that relationship, were not included in his will that was executed in 2000.  Also in 2000, Brown created the "I Feel Good Irrevocable Trust" which included the bulk of his musical copyright assets and real estate assets.  The beneficiary of the trust is a charitable organization.

To add to the exciting mix, Brown was separated from Hynie at the time of his death and there are legal questions as to the validity of their actual marriage.  Under South Carolina law, Hynie and the child from that relationship are entitled to an inheritance so long as they were not specifically disinherited in the will.

The family members reached a Settlement Agreement in 2007, which the court rejected.  On April 6, 2009, the judge wrapped up hearings on the matter and a ruling on the division of the estate is anticipated.

More spin on the estate came to light also on April 6, 2009 when a former publicist of James Brown, Jacque Hollander, sued for a stake of the “I Feel Good” trust.   Hollander alleges the trust is illusory and the assets from the illusory trust were instead property of a partnership between her and Brown that was established in 1987 and never dissolved. Hollander v. Estate of James Brown (09 CV 2147).

Be watching for upcoming blog posts on Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Garcia.