AIKEN, S.C. – Five of James Brown's children say their late father's will should be invalidated because his former advisers used undue influence to get him to create charitable trusts that the advisers would profit from, according to court documents filed this week.
The children were largely left out of the financial portion of the will, which leaves the bulk of the soul singer's money to trusts set up to educate Brown's grandchildren and needy kids.
Atlanta attorney Louis Levenson said the children discovered earlier wills drafted by their father that cast doubt on whether he truly wanted to leave his estate to charity.
"There was sporadic indication that Mr. Brown intended to benefit some charities, but the circumstances surrounding the making of these documents have always been clouded in mystery," Levenson said.
Five Brown children are challenging the will in Aiken County Probate Court. They claim Brown's longtime advisers Buddy Dallas, Alford Bradley and David Cannon convinced the soul singer to create the trusts so the advisers would profit from managing the two charities after Brown died.
Dallas denied the allegations and called attempts to void the will "an act of desperation."
"No one told James Brown what to do," Dallas said, adding that if he were going to use his influence to benefit himself, "I would have just influenced him into giving me something."
The Brown children challenging the will are Deanna Brown Thomas, Venisha Brown, Daryl Brown, Yamma Brown Lumar and Larry Brown. A sixth child named in Brown's will, Terry Brown, has hired a different attorney.
One grandchild whose tuition would be paid for by the trusts has accused his relatives of trying to break the charities to get the money.
Most of Brown's estate, including his Beech Island home and rights to his image, name and music, would go to the James Brown "I Feel Good" Trust for the education of needy children in South Carolina and Georgia, as well as to a family trust to educate his grandchildren younger than 35.
Brown died on Christmas Day 2006 of heart failure. He was 73.
Just how much money is involved in Brown's estate is unclear. In October, Forbes reported Brown made an estimated $5 million in 2005 alone. But attorneys have said Brown's accounts do not have the money they expected