Legal expert analyzes James Brown's will

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January 19, 2007

James Brown's last wishes, spelled out in seven pages. His last will and testament is now public. News 12 talked to a legal expert to break down the will and look at the legal challenges that may come.

Mr. Brown's will was filed in probate court Thursday. It was drawn up before James Brown, Jr. was born, and before his disputed last marriage, and that's what's created much of the controversy.

James Brown made it clear: anyone left out of the will was omitted intentionally, not by accident or mistake.

Peter Flanagan is an Augusta State University law professor, and also a lawyer. He says Brown “put this in here, to say if there were any other children, or any other heirs that he knew about, they do not take.”

He reviewed Mr. Brown's will with us. The document states the entertainer’s personal and household effects, like furniture, clothing and cars, will be divided among the six children named in the will. The rest of his estate is in the hands of three trustees.

“It would appear that the trustees have the power over the trust, but it does not appear that there are any specific amounts given," Flanagan said.

Of course, not named in the will are Tomi Rae Hynie, or her 5 year old son, James Brown, Jr.

When the will was filed Thursday, Brown's attorneys checked no when asked if he'd married or had other children since 2000...the year the will was drafted.

“They would believe that the only individuals that were listed in here would be his heirs, that the marriage that he had at the time, or perceived to have, was not a valid marriage or was not a marriage at all," Flanagan said.

Tomi Rae was not only excluded from the will. News 12 has learned she is not listed as Brown's widow on his death certificate. Adrienne Rodriguez is. She was his wife who died in 1996.

Tomi Rae has vowed to contest the will.

Flanagan says what she's entitled to all depends on whether she is Brown's widow. “If she is legally and validly married, then she would have what we call standing, or she would be a person who would be an heir at law, therefore she could go to court and file an objection or caveat to this will or she can file some other type of document, that says 'I want my elective share, as an heir or spouse and I want a share for my child also'.”

Flanagan also says Tomi Rae's attorney may contest on other grounds, saying Mr. Brown suffered from some undue influence or was not in his right mind when he drafted the will.

The value of Mr. Brown's estate is not listed in the will. That value will be determined after it has been appraised within 90 days.