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Battle over James Brown's estate litigation plays on

When a beloved musical artist passes away, fans often take comfort in the fact that the music they produced will live on. However, in some cases, it seems the estate litigation may also live on, such as the case in the battle over James Brown's estate. Fans in New York -- and elsewhere -- may be surprised to learn that, more than 12 years after the singer's death, the rights to his music and estate remain unresolved.

Less than a month after Brown's death on Christmas in 2006, his estate was opened for probate. The artist's will was drafted before his last marriage in 2001, which led to the battle over the validity of his marriage to his fourth wife, Tomi Rae Hynie. According to the challenges launched by the family, Hynie was supposedly already married to another man at the time of her marriage to Brown. Hynie countered that her marriage to Javed Ahmed was invalid because he was married to three other women in his native country. 

In July of 2018, the courts finally ruled that Hynie's marriage to Brown was valid, and she was subsequently awarded the portion of the estate that was determined by the state's laws. The next challenge was over whether Hynie's son, James Brown II, was the biological son of the singer since he had apparently undergone a vasetomy years before the child's birth. However, two DNA tests confirmed that Brown II is a biological heir. Along with the fights over a marriage and paternity, the family has also been fighting for the copy rights to the singer's extensive catalogue of music.

While this estate litigation continues to play out, some are watching to see if it will eventually change South Carolina's estate laws. New York has its own laws regarding how challenges to estate plans are conducted. In an effort to reduce the chances that one's final plans will face challenges in court, residents can seek the assistance of an experienced attorney.

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