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Give It Up or Turnit Loose

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, died in 2006. His estate is still unsettled due to myriad lawsuits. He had intended to leave $2 million for scholarships for his grandchildren, memorabilia to his children, and the rest to a charity for scholarships for children from SC and Georgia.

Lawsuits have involved whether a woman should have been trustee, whether people should have been removed as trustee, the paternity of a son, and the validity of Brown’s marriage (his wife reportedly was married at the time of their marriage) plus the run of the mill will contest suits. The most recent suit involves whether his wife could sell the rights to his songs.

Two points:

1. There are no good lessons here. If heirs want to fight, they will find reasons to fight and no planning can prevent that.

2. I always preferred the music of Brown’s contemporaries, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, both who died tragically young. One benefit of dying young is that there is no large estate to fight over nor large family to fight.


Photo Credit:  Michael Holahan/Augusta Chronicle, via Associated Press and linked NYT article
License:  Fair Use/Education

Tupac’s Estate

Rapper Tupac Shakur was killed in 1996.   His estate has released 6 posthumous albums and authorized a hologram likeness of him to perform at last year’s  Coachella Music Festival.  Now, his mother has turned over management of his estate to a new group of managers who have worked with the estates of other artists such as Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, and Henry Mancini.

The new managers have thankfully ruled our a hologram tour, but are considering the use of his music in a Pink Floyd-esque laser light show.   Yawn.  Almost everything Tupac recorded has been released in the past 16 years and only snippets of recordings remain in the vault.  Nonetheless, his mother stated of the management change , “I believe it is our responsibility to make sure that Tupac’s entire body of work is made available for his fans.”  Translation:  it is her desire to make as much money as possible off her son’s music.

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I am an attorney located in Cincinnati, Ohio who practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, asset protection, and small business advice. I make a difficult and bewildering process as simple as possible. Most importantly, I provide "more for less" for my clients.