The Big Payback: Brown's Family Feuds Over Estate

James Brown's sequin jumpsuits and piano go on sale, but who gets the money?


June 11, 2008— -- Anyone with a taste for soul music and a few dollars to spare can snap up one of James Brown's mementos when Christie's auction house puts hundreds of the late "Godfather of Soul's" personal effects up for sale next month.

But who will end up pocketing the proceeds, which are expected to total $1 million?

That won't be decided for months, if not years, since the estate of Brown, with an estimated value of at least $85 million, has been locked in an ugly tug-of-war between his children, ex-girlfriends, ex-wives and purported ex-wives.

Among the attractions that go on the block on July 17: a leather belt with a red-and-silver rhinestone buckle reading "Sex Machine" (estimated value: $2,000-$3,000), a Hammond B-3 electric organ ($15,000-$20,000), sunglasses, rollers, picks, hair products, bow ties and a dome hair dryer from the salon in the late music legend's home.

For more than ten weeks after his death on Christmas Day, 2006, Brown's body lay in a gold casket inside his home, while his children and Tomi Ray Hynie, Brown's long-time companion and purportedly his last wife, were embroiled in a dispute over his final resting place. Currently, Brown's body has been temporarily placed in a crypt at the home of one of his daughters until a final grave site is decided upon.

During the reading of Brown's will in January 2007, it was revealed that Hynie and James III, a child she claims was fathered by Brown, were not due to inherit any of the singer's property.

She sued the estate, asking the court to recognize her as Brown's widow, although her marriage to the singer remains controversial since Brown's attorneys say she was still married to a Pakistani immigrant hoping to fraudulently obtain a Green Card when she wed Brown in December 2001. The annulment for her earlier marriage didn't take place until April 2004.

In addition, Brown always denied Hynie's assertion that he was the father of James III, and requested a DNA test before his death, according to another of Brown's attorneys. A recent DNA test reportedly determined that Brown was indeed the father of the now six-year-old boy.

There are reportedly as many as six other children, whom Brown never acknowledged, who have sued or plan to sue for a cut of the fortune.

And five of Brown's known children have sued to invalidate the will. They have already succeeded in removing the estate's trustees, including Brown's longtime lawyer David Cannon, after accusations that as much of $370,000 of the estate was missing. The trustees were replaced with court-appointed administrators.

Bill Hammond, one of the other trustees removed from the estate, questions whether the sale at Christie's is proper. "I wonder whether they have any authority to sell these items," he told

Hammond, who says that the estate contains 12,000 items according to an inventory conducted by his office, contends that the singer's children were entitled to nothing under the will "except for pots and pans on the property" because Brown harbored ill will over an earlier dispute with some of his children.

"They sued Brown and ended up with a $400,000-500,000 judgment, so he did not leave them anything. He left all his estate to provide education for deserving and needy children."

Hammond claims that Brown's desires have not been realized and that the charitable scholarship trust has still not been established.

Brown's children contend that the education trust was set up by Brown's handlers so they could profit from running the trust after Brown died.

Adele Pope, a current trustee of the estate, and Christie's auction house declined to comment on who would benefit from the proceeds of the sale.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events