Here's the latest in the James Brown estate saga. Earlier this month, Velma Warren Brown, the Godfather of Soul's first wife, claimed she was never divorced from him.
If that were true, all of his subsequent marriages would be nullified. According to the Associated Press and Augusta Chronicle, a 1969 divorce decree was discovered in court records, and she was the one who filed for divorce.
Even more mysterious is the mention in the handwritten 1969 divorce settlement of another child, Lisa Brown, who was five when the couple divorced in 1969. Brown, in his August 1, 2000 will, acknowledges six children, three from the first marriage and three out-of-wedlock children. No mention was made of Lisa.
Another snag in the estate battle is Brown's 2001 marriage to Tomi Rae Hynie and the couple's minor child, James Jr., aged seven. The adult Brown children maintain that this wasn't a legal marriage because Tomi Rae was still married to her first husband. In 2004 she got an annulment but didn't go through a second wedding ceremony with Brown.
The adult Brown children are attempting to upset the will which awarded them only the personal effects of the estate such as furniture, antiques, cars, boats and jewelry. After providing a trust for educating his grandchildren, James gave the bulk of his estate to a trust for the education of needy of South Carolina and Georgia.
The court has a challenging task to sort out the legal standing of those seeking a piece of the pie. I don't believe Velma can succeed in her claim. We know little about Lisa Brown but DNA could establish if she and James Brown Jr. are legal heirs not mentioned in the will.
If Tomi Rae is declared the common law wife, she will upset the will since she would be entitled to one-third of the estate. The Attorneys General of South Carolina and Georgia are intervening to protect the trust for disadvantaged children. It's too bad Brown isn't around to write a soul song about this sordid mess.
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