Estate of Denial: The South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in the attempt by former James Brown trustees Robert Buchanan of Aiken and Adele Pope of Newberry to set aside a 2008 deal between former S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster and some of Brown’s disinherited claimed heirs to transfer about $50 million from Brown’s “I Feel Good” Trust.
McMaster’s deal rewrote Brown’s estate plan, giving McMaster control of Brown’s assets through a trustee selected by the attorney general and can be removed at will. The agreement also gave away more than 50 percent of Brown’s assets to disinherited relatives and claimed relatives.
Buchanan and Pope argue the court’s decision may determine the future of private philanthropy in South Carolina.
Brown’s estate plan dedicated his entire $100 million dollar music empire to education. After providing education trusts for seven grandchildren, Brown put the rest in the James Brown “I Feel Good” private foundation to be used solely for scholarships to needy children.
In the Aug. 10, 2008, agreement, McMaster rewrote Brown’s estate plan to give 25 percent of the music empire to Brown’s companion and another 25 percent to five of Brown’s more than one dozen claimed children. McMaster’s rewrite was subsequently amended to leave the “I Feel Good” foundation with only about 47 percent of Brown’s music empire.