- 23 Jul 21
Brown passed away on December 25, 2006 at the age of 73.
James Brown's heirs reached a settlement agreement over his estate last Friday, almost 15 years after the iconic singer's death.
The news comes after Brown specified in his will 21 years ago that he would bestoy very little to his heirs, except a $2 million scholarship fund for his grandchildren.
The Godfather of Soul's daughters, Deanna Brown-Thomas and Yamma Brown, among others, found a way to inherit potentially millions of dollars after the star's death in 2006.
The settlement terms have yet to be made public, but a number of Brown’s children and grandchildren are likely to split up termination rights on the copyright to Brown’s 900 compositions, according to Billboard.
Many of Brown’s songs are due to revert back to the late singer’s control in the future under US copyright law. This loophole will allow his heirs to license them to commercials, TV shows, movies and video games or sell them outright.
The legal wrangle centred around Tommie Rae Hynie, who claimed to be Brown’s wife even though, South Carolina courts determined later, she was married to another man at the time of her marriage to Brown.
Brown was aware of this information, and even filed an annulment at one stage before regressing after Hynie agreed in 2004 to “forever waive any claim to a common-law marriage,” court documents state.
For most of the 15 year legal dispute over Brown’s estate and holdings, Hynie agreed to deals with publisher Warner Chappell to sell termination rights for five songs for $1.875 million.
Brown-Thomas along with other family members filed legal action in 2018, calling them “illegal back-room agreements deliberately designed to destroy, circumvent and/or dilute plaintiffs’ interests.”
In June 2020, the Supreme Court in Brown’s home state of South Carolina eventually ruled Hynie was not the late singer’s legal wife, which ruled out much of her influence over the performer's estate.
Although she was part of the latest settlement, it is believed she is unlikely to profit from Brown’s holdings.
It was also reported in 2020 that claims that the singer was murdered could potentially be explored by police, but a formal investigation is yet to be opened.
Brown was 73 when he died of heart failure on Christmas Day in 2006 in Atlanta, less than two days after being hospitalised for pneumonia.
A woman named Jacque Hollander contacted the office of the Fulton county district attorney, Paul Howard, to request a meeting, claiming Brown’s death was caused by another person. According to the prosecutor’s spokesman, Chris Hopper, Howard met with Hollander and accepted a bin of materials she said related to Brown’s death. Howard must decide whether to open an investigation, according to Chris Hopper.