New Jersey fans of James Brown may already know that this Christmas marks the eighth anniversary of his death. By all accounts, Brown’s estate plan was meticulously done. It was obvious to those who perused it that he put his soul into its creation. However, that did not stop a will contest from stalling the distribution of his estate since his death.
Brown — who had less than a 7th grade education — earmarked millions of dollars to be placed into a charitable trust to furnish scholarships to children in need. In doing so, his estate plan virtually ignores his children and long-time companion, which may be what prompted them to contest the will. According to his family, Brown suffered from diminished mental capacity, and the executors of his estate took advantage of him.
Since then, the administration of his estate has fallen on several different people. The state even got involved at one point, and the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered a settlement brokered by the Attorney General to be stricken, among other things. The judge presiding over Brown’s probate has yet to comply with all of the court’s orders.
As is illustrated in Brown’s case, even an estate plan that appears to be well constructed can be subject to a will contest if it is believed that its creator was not of sound mind. Brown’s will even contains a caveat that anyone contesting the will would be disinherited, but that has not stopped the proceedings. For these reasons and more, it is imperative that a New Jersey resident’s estate planning documents be executed in accordance with state law, which include safeguards to ensure that an individual is signing the documents of his or her own free will without duress or coercion.
Source: staradvertiser.com, “Downbeat legacy for Godfather of Soul: a will in deep dispute”, Larry Rohter and Steve Knopper, Dec. 13, 2014