COLUMBIA - Attorneys pushing a long-awaited settlement over how to parcel out James Brown's estate and trust want the trustees removed, claiming they've done little to protect the singer's legacy and money.
Court-appointed trustees Adele Pope and Robert Buchanan, who are attorneys in South Carolina, should be replaced by someone with the legal and accounting expertise needed to deal with the complex estate, Louis Levensen, an attorney for some of Mr. Brown's adult children, said today. Mr. Levensen and other attorneys involved in the dispute over Mr. Brown's estate claim it has taken too long to resolve, and they want the current trustees out.
A proposed settlement of Mr. Brown's estate would give 50 percent to his charitable trust to educate the singer's grandchildren and needy students in Georgia and South Carolina; 25 percent to Tomi Rae Hynie Brown, Mr. Brown's surviving spouse and the mother of his child; and 25 percent to some of Mr. Brown's adult children. All parties with a stake in the settlement support the motion calling for the trustees' removal.
Attorneys had hoped to announce the settlement details last month. Instead, several debtors testified in court they are owed money from the estate.
Mr. Brown died on Christmas Day 2006, igniting a whirlwind of public feuds and litigation. The value of his estate is still unknown.
Some of the soul singer's possessions were auctioned in July for $850,000, partly to pay debt. Attorneys have said the soul singer's accounts have little money in them. The future income - from movies, royalties and the sale of Brown's likeness - is what's really at stake, attorneys have said.
"Our goal is to accomplish the estate plan as modified by the settlement agreement and we need to do that," Mr. Levensen said. "Anyone who stands in the way of that needs to get out of the way."
Calls to Ms. Pope's and Mr. Buchanan's offices, and their attorney were not immediately returned today. The two were initially hired as special administrators to help settle the estate and were appointed trustees a year ago to oversee Mr. Brown's estate and trust, but have failed to provide an adequate inventory and appraise Mr. Brown's possessions, and based a federal estate tax return on unreliable information, according to court documents.
An attorney for Tomi Rae Brown claims that the trustees have been distracted by a lawsuit against them involving one of Mr. Brown's grandchildren.
"Here we are two years later and we can't go on with the business of the estate because of the fighting going on with the personal representatives," attorney Robert Rosen said.
The court documents also seek to permanently remove three former trustees. David Cannon resigned last year amid allegations he misappropriated thousands of dollars from Mr. Brown's accounts. Buddy Dallas and Alfred Bradley also resigned but have filed a lawsuit to be reinstated.
Mr. Dallas said he had not seen the new motion.
"All I have every tried to do is do what Mr. Brown directed me," he said. "I continue to be amazed. This thing has been turned into a circus."