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March 1, 2013

South Carolina Supreme Court Overturns Settlement in James Brown’s Estate

On behalf of Thomas Costello of Costello Law Group

On Wednesday, the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned a settlement brokered by the former attorney general of South Carolina divvying up the estate of the late James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul”. The estate planning documents executed by Brown gave most of his estate to a charitable trust aimed at providing education for needy children known as The James Brown “I Feel Good” Trust. Brown’s heirs brought numerous actions to set aside the will and trust documents based on undue influence and attempted to have the estate pass under the laws of intestate succession.

With the administration of Brown’s estate mired in numerous claims, former attorney general of South Carolina negotiated a settlement which gave less than half of his estate to his charitable trust and the rest to his heirs. The South Carolina Supreme Court held that court approval of the settlement was not appropriate because there was no evidence that Brown was not of sound mind when he executed the documents and that the settlement gave a large portion of the estate assets to persons who had been specifically excluded from Brown’s will.

The full text of the court’s opinion can be found at the following link: http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/opinions/HTMLFiles/SC/27227.pdf