One of showbiz's "most contentious legal cases," as the New York Times puts it, will soon be laid to rest as James Brown's heirs last Friday reached a settlement agreement almost 15 years after the iconic singer's death. Brown's 2000 will largely left out his family, leaving the majority of his assets to a trust that would provide scholarships to poor kids in South Carolina and Georgia. The involved players in the ensuing estate battle included five children, the estate of another child, three grandkids, and Tommie Rae Hynie, a former backup singer who wed Brown while she was still married to someone else, and whose marriage to Brown was last year found to be illegal by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
The involved parties fought for control of the estate, and fought against what they said were conspiracies and "illegal back-room agreements" to deny them their share of Brown's copyrights. After a person's death, the heirs have the right to terminate ownership transfers (which songwriters typically arrange with music publishers) and regain full ownership of the deceased's songs, and estate lawyers estimate Brown's termination rights are worth tens of millions. His heirs have been seeking a share of the proceeds they'd get if they had control over his copyrights. The details of the settlement are not clear, but a trust will likely be funded to finance scholarships for poor children. All the heirs will say, via a lawyer, is "The matter has been settled." (Meanwhile, an investigation into the nature of Brown's death has not yet been completed.)