Ever since James Brown‘s death in 2006, the status of his potentially $100 million dollar estate has been in limbo as family tried to claim rights over it. The victor, some 9 years later, appears to be Tommie Rae Hynie, a ontime backup singer for Brown who had a child, James III, with Brown. She was also married to him, but under some sketchy circumstances.
Mrs. Brown’s exact marital status has been at issue since Mr. Brown died on Christmas Day 2006. She and the singer were married in 2001, but he filed for an annulment in 2004, after learning that she was already married to another man. The validity of that earlier marriage, to Javed Ahmed, an immigrant who needed an American spouse to allow him to remain in the country, was called into question, however, on the ground that he already had several wives in his home country.
“All bigamous marriages are void” from the start, Judge Doyet Early III wrote in a 46-page ruling. And because Mr. Brown in 2004 abandoned his effort to have his own marriage to Mrs. Brown annulled, “he was married to Mrs. Brown at the time of his death,” the judge found.
“We are obviously very happy with this result,” Mrs. Brown’s lawyer, Robert Rosen, said in a telephone interview. “My client has been maligned throughout this process, but she is the wife and has now been declared the wife.”
However, the Times reports that in his last will, written in 2000, Brown wanted his estate to go to a trust fund that provided for needy children, and Hynie signed a prenup renouncing all rights to his fortune. Brown specified in his 2000 will that none of his estate should go to any potential heirs, including his wife or children.
Because there are still legal aspects to be worked out, and based on the ruling, Hynie’s lawyer says that he is willing to come to a financial settlement with the Brown children, who have also laid claim to the estate. Six legitimate children are named in Brown’s will, but at least two other illegitimate children have come forward and have proven to be Brown’s children after DNA testing.
In 2009, both Hynie and the six children were awarded a quarter share of Brown’s estate, a decision overturned in 2013 by a South Carolina court, according to Watchdogwire.com.