Court Rules that James Brown’s Marriage to Tomirae Hynie Invalid

James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul”, died almost 14 years ago. Yet it wasn’t until this past month that the courts finally decided his estate lawsuit. Apparently, when he died, his will stated that he wanted the royalties from his songs and image to be used to set up a scholarship. He had produced more than 850 songs worth about $8.8 million.

Brown had wanted to create the “I Feel Good” scholarship to help students looking to pursue a career in music. However, his partner, Tomirae Hynie, sued the estate administrator. She demanded that she had a spousal share in his estate because the two got married in 2001.

The court finally ruled that her marriage to the late artist was not legal. Hynie was still married when she exchanged vows with James Brown. She didn’t get her prior marriage annulled until three years later in 2004. Therefore, under South Carolina law, the two were never married. Therefore, she had no legal interest in his estate.

What this means is that his estate would be divided to his heirs. Now that the court has decided the issues raised by Hynie, the rest of Brown’s family are suing as well. They say the money shouldn’t be used for any scholarship. They want all of the assets of his estate to be divided amongst them.

The estate trustee has been named in the recent lawsuit filed in federal court this month. The court made it clear that the requests outlined in Brown’s will should be followed at this point. Sadly, it may be several more years before this matter is resolved.

If you’re dealing with any issues involving a marriage or annulment in South Carolina, make sure to call our office