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James Brown's estate still not settled, despite will

In most places throughout the country, including right here in West Palm Beach, distribution of assets to beneficiaries upon an individual's death can get mired in the court system for lengthy periods of time. When James Brown, the famous soul singer, died in 2006, he left a will describing how he wished his estate distributed, but years later the matter is still unresolved.

Brown's will was contested, and the Attorney General of South Carolina brokered a settlement agreement between the parties. However, the Supreme Court of South Carolina overturned the settlement, stating that the settlement failed to follow the deceased singer's wishes. The court did uphold the part of the Attorney General's settlement that removed the trustees of a trust that Brown had set up due to alleged mismanagement. The singer's estate had already languished in the court system for years before this decision.

Though not everyone in West Palm Beach will have a multi-million dollar estate to deal with, smaller estates are not immune to lengthy delays in distributing the assets, even when there exists an estate plan or trust to guide the probate court. At a time when families are already grieving, disputes between family members regarding the estate, or with outside creditors, can be especially upsetting. In cases like this, expert advice can be a large help in smoothing the way and decreasing the amount of time the will remains in probate.

Florida probate can be complicated, and individuals who have been designated personal representatives for a loved one's estate plan can face a daunting task in paying bills from the estate, liquidating assets, notifying beneficiaries, distributing the assets and filing tax returns. Again, expert advice can be critical in these situations to minimize the time it takes to get through an already stressful time.

In short, one does not need to be a famous millionaire to encounter delays and difficulties in the estate distribution process. It is important that families remember that the law attempts to give effect to the testator's intent when the will was written. Use of an experienced professional to aid in the process can help avoid further delays and stress.

Source: Associated Press, "SC court nixes James Brown estate settlement," Meg Kinnard, Feb. 27, 2013

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