Author Archives: JessicaRivera

James Brown’s Will in Litigation

James Brown also know as the “Godfather of Soul” not only left behind a legacy of music,culture and dance, he also left behind a large estate and will that would be wrangled over for years to come. James Brown died in 2006, but the legal battle over his estate had been going on ever since. Brown’s will left his entire estate to a charitable trust, and personal effects and such to his named children in the will and nothing to his surviving spouse Tommie Rae Hynie whom he married back in 2001. The issue  that arose was whether Tommie Rae Hynie was in fact legally James Brown’s spouse? Tommie Rae Hynie had married another man in 1997 she then filed for an annulment of that marriage in 2004, the same year James Brown filed for an annulment of his marriage with Tommie Rae Hynie.After Brown’s death, Hynie contested his will, claiming that she had been married to Brown at the time.  A South Carolina judge agreed, which in turn allows Tommie Rae Hynie to possibly inherit even though she is not mentioned as an heir in James Brown’s will. In Brown’s case, he wasn’t married at the time he wrote his will in 2000, so of course he wouldn’t have made an allowance for a spouse he didn’t have, but that doesn’t matter. The omitted spouse statute requires only that:

  • The deceased person be married at the time of the will;
  • The spouse isn’t named in the will (or intentionally excluded); and
  • The spouse isn’t provided for in some other way, like in a trust.

Judge Doyet A. Early III’s decision doesn’t resolve whether Hynie can inherit anything or how much she may be entitled to. To date Tommie Rae Hynie has not collected any would be inheritance even though she has proven in court that she was indeed legally married to James Brown at the time of his death.