UPDATE | James Brown estate settled with Tommie Rae Brown

Published: Jan. 14, 2016 at 5:54 PM EST
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Friday, July 27, 2018

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/ WAGT) -- The Court of Appeals has sided with a judge in his ruling that Tommie Rae Brown is the wife and now-widow of James Brown.

Their marriage was contested years after the Godfather of Soul's death because she was married to someone else at the time she married Brown.

This decision means Brown's children can no longer appeal whether she was his true wife.

The estate has officially settled with Tommie Rae.

News 12 NBC 26 / Friday, Sept. 23, 2016

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The battle over James Brown's estate and Will continues nearly a decade after his death.

This December will be 10 years.

For many years, his kids have fought over whether his Will is valid. Now, we're learning one of his adult children may not be his son.

For many years Daryl Brown was his father's right-hand-man, at least on the stage.

"I love my father. I was very close with my dad," Daryl Brown told News 12 earlier this year.

We talked to Daryl in January about his feelings on the fight over his father's Will.

"It's a bunch of garbage," Daryl said.

Just this week, News 12 NBC 26 learned there's question over whether the Godfather is really Daryl's father after he says a DNA test proved "inconclusive."

David Bell is the most recent attorney of record for Daryl. We asked if he knew of the DNA test and the result.

He said "I cannot answer."

Bell also couldn't answer if he still represents Daryl or what this test means for pending lawsuits.

So, we turned to an unrelated medical professional to talk about what an "inconclusive" DNA test really means.

News 12 NBC 26 asked if this was a pass or fail test or if it was possible to get an inconclusive result.

"You can get an inconclusive result," Forensic Pathologist Dr. Joseph White confirmed.

Dr. White says matching a person to a sample of themselves is easy; determining family relationships is more complicated. It's a game of probabilities.

"Generation to generation there is an accumulation of mutations, so you have to allow for some misses on the sites you're examining between parent and child or else you would exclude someone who is related," he said.

Earlier this year, four of the six children (Larry, Yamma, Vanisha, and Deanna) came to a settlement of sorts to stop fighting the Will in exchange for one-sixth of the property, some money, and a deal to throw out the clause that says if you contest the Will, you get nothing.

Daryl and Terry were against that, so the case is now in the South Carolina Court of Appeals. How and if this test result will affect that, we'll have to wait and see.

Learning your family might not be who you've always believed has to be a tough and confusing thing to hear. But, people who knew both Mr. Brown and Daryl say sometimes blood doesn't matter. If Mr. Brown thought of you as a son, he might as well have been your father.

Daryl believes the test was done wrong and says he has hired new representation.

Several suits are still pending in the court system. Earlier in the year Judge Early signed an order validating the settlement, but shortly after, one or more of the adult children appealed, so that is still pending in the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

There are two actions involving former trustee Adele Pope. She has brought one claim to be paid fees. That is before Judge Early. There's also an action against Pope filed by some of Brown's children accusing her of mismanaging the estate.

We're also still waiting on the ruling of Tomi Rae Hynie's marital status. Judge Early had ruled she was James Brown's wife at the time of his death, but that has been appealed, so that is currently pending in the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

Lawyers expect that to be the next big decision, which should come in the next six to nine months.

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- News 12 NBC 26 has confirmed a DNA test done on Darryl Brown was inconclusive as the battle over James Brown's will continues.

According to Brown, he believes the DNA test was done wrong. He said he has fired his former attorney David Bell and plans to hire new ones.

This comes amid a settlement for James Brown's estate, which only included four of Brown's adult children -- Larry, Yamma, Vanisha, and Deanna, leaving out Terry and Darryl Brown.

Attorneys for Terry and Darryl then filed a lawsuit to be named under James Brown's will.

In the settlement, the four adult children would still keep their right to the personal property Brown wanted them to have. Since there are six children named, they'd each get 1/6th. The settlement would pay each of them $37,500 and keep Brown's Estate completely in tact.

Friday, Jan. 22, 2016

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW) -- Judge Doyet Early says the settlement in the court battle over James Brown's estate will be upheld.

Judge Early says he has not signed a formal order yet. Attorneys say the settlement will resolve five of the six pending claims to set aside the Will and Trust.

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, January 14, 2016

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW) -- After nine years of battling in court, there's finally the possibility of a settlement in James Brown's estate.

"We came to the settlement so that we could stop this and we can move forward and do the great things in his name," Brown's daughter Deanna Brown Thomas told News 12.

The settlement has been drawn up, but it needs a judge's approval.

So today, the several in the Brown family went back to court to hopefully start the beginning of the end.

If the settlement is approved, attorneys say it would resolve five of the six pending claims to set aside the Will and Trust.

The settlement includes four of Brown's adult children -- Larry, Yamma, Vanisha, and Deanna.

"Now that we have pretty much come to a good agreement on the Estate with the Estate lawyers, we're ready to settle this because this will cost the Estate as well as us a lot of money to continue," Deanna said.

Attorneys argued that's money that could have, and should have, gone to help needy children get an education through the "I Feel Good" trust Brown set up in his will.

Litigation could drain that fund.

"No one wants to see the Estate depleted. That's why we brought this case to the court," Deanna said.

The settlement basically says the four adult children will stop their legal fight and cooperate with the Estate if the in terrorem clause is taken out. That's the part of James Brown's will that says anyone who contests the will gets nothing.

In the settlement, the four adult children would still keep their right to the personal property Brown wanted them to have. Since there are six children named, they'd each get 1/6th.

It would also pay each of them $37,500 and keep Brown's Estate completely in tact.

There's a clause that assures the will cooperate with the Estate and Trust "in any and all continuing matters."

The catch, the in terrorem clause would go away.

Not everyone likes that idea.

"The bottom of the argument is they have to enforce the in terrorem clause," attorney John Donsbach said. He represents Brown's other son Terry.

That's what the other side says, namely two of Brown's other sons Terry and Darryl.

"We believe that sends a terrible message that you are rewarding people who for nine years for no good reason disregarded the wishes of their father, yet do nothing for people who supported the will," Darryl's attorney said.

"Every one of those is clear on what James Brown's intent was as far as his Estate plan. He wanted to leave his personal property to his six kids. He wanted to educate his grandchildren and he wanted to leave money for the needy kids in Georgia and South Carolina. That has held consistent in everything we have seen in this case since 1997," Terry Brown's attorney said in court.

If they go forward with trying to enforce that clause, it means the lawsuit would have to continue with no clear end in sight.

Now it's in Judge Early's hands.

Before he adjourned, Judge Early said he would make a ruling soon.

If the settlement is approved, this is not the end. The lawsuits around Tommie Rae Hynie will still go on either way.

In fact, in the settlement, while it says the adult children will cooperate with the Estate, it specifically states they will not cooperate with Tommie Rae.