More than a decade after music legend James Brown passed away on Christmas Day in 2006, his estate plan remains contested, keeping many heirs from receiving any portion of his multimillion-dollar estate. Many different parties claim that the plan excludes them in one way or another, or includes terms that do not reflect the limits of copyright law.
According to a number of court documents, Brown’s estate plan excludes a number of his biological children and grandchildren and attempts to redistribute copyright ownership for many of his musical works, which determine who receives the substantial royalties that continue to accumulate year over year for his catalogue. if this is true, then the estate plan may be attempting to supersede certain areas of the law, which is often an invitation to legal challenges and protracted frustrations for every party involved.
Without getting too technical, if the legal claims of some of the challengers of the estate are true, then Brown’s estate plan attempts to override laws that govern how copyrights generally transfer, which is not always a thing that can transfer easily through language in a will. Furthermore, the estate plan excludes some of Brown’s biological heirs, which is always an invitation for a legal challenge, especially since there are potentially millions of dollars in assets at stake. This is always an invitation to estate planning conflicts.
If you or someone you love needs to create or update an estate plan, be sure to do so as soon as possible. If you pass away with an incomplete or improperly prepared estate plan, your heirs may spend years fighting over how your estate actually distributes. Be sure that you use all your resources to protect your rights and wishes, making your intentions clear for your beneficiaries.
Source: New York Times, “Why Is James Brown’s Estate Still Unsettled? Ask the Lawyers,” Steve Knopper, Feb. 04, 2018