Woman vows lawsuit to show she's Brown's wife

COLUMBIA - An attorney for Tomi Rae Hynie Brown says she will sue once the soul singer's will is filed, asking a court to rule she is legally married to Mr. Brown and is entitled to half of his estate.

"At the end of the day, in my opinion, Tomi Rae Hynie will inherit 50 percent of James Brown's estate and the trust, and the child, James Brown's son, will inherit one-seventh of the other 50 percent," said Mrs. Brown's attorney, Robert Rosen.

Mrs. Brown plans to contest the will as soon as it is filed and will fight all the way to the state Supreme Court to prove she is legally married to Mr. Brown, Mr. Rosen said.

The will hasn't been officially filed in court, but Mr. Brown's lawyers have released most of its details. The will was read to his family last week. It calls for his personal effects to be divided equally among the singer's six adult children. Mrs. Brown and her 5-year-old son aren't included in the will, which was drawn up 10 months before the child's birth and more than a year before Mr. Brown married Mrs. Brown, said the singer's attorney, Buddy Dallas.

Mr. Brown's lawyers say the marriage wasn't valid because the backup singer for the Godfather of Soul was married to another man when she exchanged vows with Mr. Brown in December 2001. They have said Mrs. Brown later annulled her previous marriage but that she and Mr. Brown never legally remarried. Mr. Brown's body remains in a sealed coffin at his Beech Island home as his family decides his final resting place. Mr. Rosen said he will file a request with Mr. Brown's attorneys asking that Mrs. Brown be included in the decision.

"No one disputes that she was his companion," Mr. Rosen said. "They were living together as man and wife when he died. He said in his autobiography that she was his wife. He signed the birth certificate saying this was his child, and I can't understand why people would be so disrespectful to her."

Most of Mr. Brown's holdings are in an irrevocable trust separate from the will. Mrs. Brown and her son aren't included in the trust, said Mr. Dallas, who also is one of Mr. Brown's trustees.

"It's left basically for the education of his grandchildren and the education of needy children," said Mr. Dallas, who declined to comment further about specifics of the trust.

Even though the will and trust were created before Mrs. Brown married the singer and their son was born, "laws say you can't exclude a spouse that you're not married to at the time of the will," Mr. Rosen said.