January 25, 2007
ATLANTA, Ga.---There are dozens of legal issues to be resolved in the battle over James Brown's estate, the biggest being: who controls it?
News 12's Diane Cho is the only local reporter who traveled to Atlanta tonight to talk with the attorney representing Mr. Brown's adult children.
She has this report on why they feel they have to stop 3 trustees from taking over.
Buddy Dallas, James Brown's long-time friend and legal advisor of 24 years, says Brown did not name his six adult children as the trustees of the will for a reason.
"Anyone who knew James Brown will tell you, no one told him what to do with what was his, and certainly not his children," Dallas told News 12. "These are the same kids who sued their father, and he never got over that."
Instead, he chose to name Dallas, Alfred Bradley and David Cannon to execute his will.
"He was a very private man," Dallas said. "There were few people he trusted to do his business, and his kids were not in that group."
But James Brown's children, the named heirs of the will, accuse Dallas and his co-trustees of not being so honest either--especially in regards to their attempts to sell some of their father's most valuable possessions--his music--with millions of dollars at stake.
Louis Levenson is an attorney based in Atlanta. He's representing the Brown children, and he filed an emergency petition to remove the trustees and allow the court to appoint a person who has no interest in the will.
"There are issues involving failing to account for years of financial transactions," he told News 12. "The children are very unanimous in the desire to have a neutral person. They don't want to put themselves in a position where one person has unfair advantage over another."
But the last paragraph of James Brown's will says this: "Should any beneficiary under this will become an adverse party in a proceeding for the probate of my will, such beneficiary shall forfeit his or her entire interest."
So the question now becomes: will the legal maneuver take the children out of the will for good?
"He said, 'My children are not going to like what I am doing, but if they come after you, they get nothing'," Dallas said.
But Levenson argues the law is clear in South Carolina, and as long as there's a legitimate claim made against the estate or trust, then the clause has no application.
The hearing is scheduled to go before a probate judge next Thursday.