James Brown’s family settle 15 year feud over late singer’s estate

The late singer passed away on Christmas Day in 2006

James Brown‘s family have finally settled a 15 year legal wrangle over the late singer’s estate.

It comes after Brown specified in his will in 2000 that he would leave very little to his heirs, other than a $2million (£1.46million) scholarship fund for his grandchildren.

But his daughters Deanna Brown-Thomas and Yamma Brown, among others, found a way to inherit potentially millions of dollars, following his death.

While the settlement terms have not been made public, several of Brown’s children and grandchildren are likely to split up termination rights on the copyright to Brown’s 900 compositions, reports Billboard.

Many of Brown’s songs are due to revert back to the late singer’s control in the coming years under US copyright law which will allow his heirs to license them to commercials, TV shows, movies and video games or sell them outright.

James Brown Credit: Getty

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 himself was aware of this, filing at one point for an annulment before backing off when Hynie agreed in 2004 to “forever waive any claim to a common-law marriage,” according to court documents.

For much 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 $1.875million (£1.37million).

But 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, ruling out much of her influence over the estate.

Although she was part of the latest settlement, it is believed she is unlikely to profit from Brown’s holdings.

Last year, it was reported that claims that the singer was murdered could potentially be investigated. A formal investigation is yet to be opened.

Brown passed away on December 25, 2006 at the age of 73.