COLUMBIA, S.C. – The woman who claims to be James Brown's fourth wife wants half of the singer's estate and to be allowed back into the South Carolina home she was locked out of soon after his death.
Tomi Rae Hynie's lawyer said she filed a petition in Aiken County probate court Thursday, claiming that she is the surviving spouse of the singer and entitled to part of his estate, according to court documents obtained by the Associated Press.
She wants the court to allow her to return to Brown's Beech Island home to retrieve "personal possessions" that belong to her and their 5-year-old son, including furniture she picked out for the home, according to the court papers.
"She's not asking the court to live there," said Robert Rosen, Hynie's attorney. "They locked her out and wouldn't let her in but she has a right to go in and get her stuff — furniture, her clothing, her son's toys. They keep saying that they're going to do it but they never do it so we're going to ask a judge to order them to do it."
Brown's attorney and trustee, Buddy Dallas, said Hynie never asked for any personal items from the singer's home.
"She never requested anything," Dallas said. "She's used a camera crew and a lawsuit. I'm sure the court will inquire into it and make a proper determination."
Hynie would not talk about the particulars of the petition Thursday, but told The Associated Press by phone, "I have a long hard battle to fight for my husband's rights, for my rights and for my son's rights that have been completely violated during this time. I am his wife. It's my home."
Dallas would not say how much the estate is worth and the court papers do not provide an estimate.
Brown died Dec. 25 in an Atlanta hospital. His body remains in a sealed, gold casket in an undisclosed location awaiting a decision on where to bury it, said Charles Reid, manager of the C.A. Reid Funeral Home in Augusta, Ga., which handled Brown's funeral.
Hynie, who was a backup singer for Brown, and the young son were not included in the singer's will, filed Jan. 18 in Aiken County. The will names Brown's six adult children and calls for many of the soul legend's personal possessions, like clothes, jewelry, boats and automobiles, to be divided among them.
Brown's trust is separate from his will and contains most of the singer's primary assets, including music rights and his 60-acre Beech Island home.
"We say the will, since it omitted her, is not valid and that the trust is not valid for a variety of reasons," Rosen said.
Brown's attorneys contend that Hynie is not Brown's widow because she was still married to another man when she and Brown said their vows in 2001. They have said Hynie later annulled her previous marriage, but she and Brown never remarried. Hynie says she was legally married to Brown.
Brown's six adult children filed their own petition last week asking that the singer's three estate trustees be removed. In the document, Brown's children allege the soul singer's valuable estate was mismanaged and want the trustees removed. They also claim some of Brown's assets are in danger of being "lost or dissipated or stolen."
Hearings on both petitions will be held in the same Aiken County courtroom Feb. 9.
"There could be some fireworks at the hearing," said Rosen, adding that the children's request contains much more serious allegations.
"We're not fighting with the children, We are there to have a special administrator appointed and we're there to get her in the house," Rosen said. "I don't think we are in a collision course with the children."