When the Godfather of Soul died in 2006, he left behind a considerable estate as well as a fairly well written estate plan. Despite that, his estate was tied up in a nasty estate battle for the past six years until the South Carolina Supreme Court finally settled all the issues recently. His estate battle is an excellent example of why it is so important to review and revise an estate plan when important life events dictate those revisions.
Much of the problem with Brown’s estate stemmed from the fact that he re-married and allegedly fathered a child after his 2000 estate plan was created. Although he was clear in his estate plan that no one other than those mentioned in the plan were to inherit anything, it is far from uncommon for a subsequent spouse or child to challenge an estate plan. Brown’s six grown children also challenged the Will which called for them to only split his personal and household property. Even the South Carolina Attorney General was involved in the lawsuit because the AG administers a charitable trust. Brown’s original plan called for the majority of his assets to be used to fund a charitable trust to assist poor students with educational expenses.
Just recently, the South Carolina Supreme Court reviewed the case and struck down a deal that was brokered by the AG, essentially claiming that the AG took control over Brown’s estate without just cause. Although all may have ended well, it cost Brown’s estate millions in legal fees – fees that could have been avoided has Brown simply reviewed his estate plan after his re-marriage and the birth of another potential heir.