Wilson v. Dallas, No. 27227.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtJustice BEATTY.
Citation743 S.E.2d 746,403 S.C. 411
PartiesAlan WILSON, in his capacity as Attorney General of the State of South Carolina; Daryl J. Brown, on behalf of his minor children, Lindsey B. and Janise B.; Deanna J. Brown Thomas, on behalf of her minor child, Jason L.; Yamma N. Brown, on behalf of her minor children, Sydney L. and Carrington L.; Tonya B.; Vanisha Brown; Larry Brown; Tommie Rae Hynie Brown; and James B., through his Guardian ad Litem, Respondents, v. Albert H. DALLAS, Alfred A. Bradley, and David G. Cannon, Individually and as (purported) Trustees of the James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust; Adele J. Pope and Robert L. Buchanan, Jr., Personal Representatives of The Estate of James Brown and Trustees of the James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust; Terry Brown; Romunzo Brown; Forlando Brown; Cinnamon N.M. Paris; LaRhonda Petitt; Jeanette Mitchell; and Russell L. Bauknight, as Special Administrator and Special Trustee for The Estate of James Brown and The James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust, Defendants, of whom Robert L. Buchanan, Jr. and Adele J. Pope, as Personal Representatives of The Estate of James Brown and Trustees of The James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust are, Appellants, and Albert H. Dallas, Alfred A. Bradley, and David G. Cannon, Individually and as (purported) Trustees of The James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust; Terry Brown; Romunzo Brown; Forlando Brown; Cinnamon N.M. Paris; LaRhonda Petitt; Jeanette Mitchell; and Russell L. Bauknight, as Special Administrator and Special Trustee for The Estate of James Brown and The James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust are, Respondents. In re The Estate of James Brown and The James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust u/a/d August 1, 2000. Appellate Case No. 2009–142286.
Docket NumberNo. 27227.
Decision Date08 May 2013

403 S.C. 411
743 S.E.2d 746

Alan WILSON, in his capacity as Attorney General of the State of South Carolina; Daryl J. Brown, on behalf of his minor children, Lindsey B. and Janise B.; Deanna J. Brown Thomas, on behalf of her minor child, Jason L.; Yamma N. Brown, on behalf of her minor children, Sydney L. and Carrington L.; Tonya B.; Vanisha Brown; Larry Brown; Tommie Rae Hynie Brown; and James B., through his Guardian ad Litem, Respondents,
v.
Albert H. DALLAS, Alfred A. Bradley, and David G. Cannon, Individually and as (purported) Trustees of the James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust; Adele J. Pope and Robert L. Buchanan, Jr., Personal Representatives of The Estate of James Brown and Trustees of the James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust; Terry Brown; Romunzo Brown; Forlando Brown; Cinnamon N.M. Paris; LaRhonda Petitt; Jeanette Mitchell; and Russell L. Bauknight, as Special Administrator and Special Trustee for The Estate of James Brown and The James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust, Defendants,
of whom Robert L. Buchanan, Jr. and Adele J. Pope, as Personal Representatives of The Estate of James Brown and Trustees of The James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust are, Appellants,
and
Albert H. Dallas, Alfred A. Bradley, and David G. Cannon, Individually and as (purported) Trustees of The James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust; Terry Brown; Romunzo Brown; Forlando Brown; Cinnamon N.M. Paris; LaRhonda Petitt; Jeanette Mitchell; and Russell L. Bauknight, as Special Administrator and Special Trustee for The Estate of James Brown and The James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust are, Respondents.

In re The Estate of James Brown and The James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust u/a/d August 1, 2000.

Appellate Case No. 2009–142286.

No. 27227.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard Nov. 1, 2011.
Refiled May 8, 2013.
Rehearing Denied May 8, 2013.


[743 S.E.2d 749]


James B. Richardson, Jr., of Columbia, and Tressa T.H. Hayes, of Asheville, NC, for Appellants.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, Senior Assistant Attorney General C. Havird Jones, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Robert D. Cook, Assistant Attorney General J.C. Nicholson, III, Assistant Attorney General Mary Frances Jowers, all of Columbia; Louis Levenson, of Atlanta; Matthew Day Bodman, of Columbia; Robert N. Rosen, of Charleston; David L. Michel, of Charleston; S. Alan Medlin, of Columbia; T. Heyward Carter, Jr., of Evans Carter Kunes & Bennett, of Charleston; William W. Wilkins, of Nexsen Pruet, of Greenville; and J. David Black and Fred L. Kingsmore, Jr., both of Nexsen Pruet, of Columbia, for Respondents.


Albert P. Shahid, Jr., of Charleston, for the Guardian ad Litem.

Justice BEATTY.

[403 S.C. 416]Robert L. Buchanan, Jr. and Adele J. Pope (“Appellants”), formerly personal representatives for The Estate of James Brown and trustees of The James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust, appeal from circuit court orders that (1) approved a settlement agreement pursuant to S.C.Code Ann. § 62–3–1102 (2009) of pending litigation concerning the estate; and (2) removed Appellants from their fiduciary positions and appointed Russell L. Bauknight as personal representative and trustee. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

I. FACTS

James Brown (“Brown”), a singer and entertainer known as “The Hardest–Working Man in Show Business” and “The Godfather of Soul,” died in Atlanta, Georgia on December 25, 2006. Brown left an estate widely estimated to be worth anywhere from $5 million to over $100 million that is at the heart of this dispute among numerous parties.

By will dated August 1, 2000, Brown devised all of his personal and household effects to six adult named children: Deanna J. Brown Thomas, Yamma N. Brown, Vanisha Brown, Daryl J. Brown, Larry Brown, and Terry Brown. Brown left the remainder of his estate to The James Brown 2000 Irrevocable Trust via a pour-over provision in his will.

Brown created the 2000 Irrevocable Trust under a separate agreement, also dated August 1, 2000, as part of his estate plan to provide financial assistance for the education of his grandchildren and disadvantaged youths. The agreement creating the 2000 Irrevocable Trust includes Schedule A, which indicates Brown placed his long-time residence at Beech Island, Aiken County, and other assets in the trust as part of its initial funding, although the record contains some discrepancies as to the timing of the transfers.

[403 S.C. 417]Albert H. Dallas, Alfred 1 A. Bradley, and David G. Cannon were named as the co-personal representatives of Brown's estate and as the co-trustees of the 2000 Irrevocable Trust. In the trust document, Brown created an Advisory Board, initially to be comprised of three members, who were to confer with and advise the trustees in a manner consistent with Brown's objectives for the trust. There were also provisions

[743 S.E.2d 750]

regarding trustee succession, which required three trustees to serve at all times.

Upon Brown's death, the principal and income contained in the 2000 Irrevocable Trust, as augmented by Brown's general estate, was to be divided, by its terms, into two “shares” or subtrusts: (1) The Brown Family Education Trust (“Family Trust”), which was capped in the amount of $2 million for tax purposes and designated for the education of Brown's grandchildren; and (2) The James Brown “I Feel Good” Trust (“Charitable Trust”), which Brown declared “shall be used solely for the tuition, educational expenses, and financial assistance of ... poor and financially needy children, youth, or young adults (Who are both qualified and deserving) who seek and have need of such assistance to obtain and further their education at the many educational entities and/or institutions available in the States of South Carolina and Georgia.” Thus, Brown's estate planning documents indicate Brown intended the bulk of his wealth to be used to support the Charitable Trust.

Brown's will and trust each contained a no-contest clause, which provided that any beneficiary who challenged the will or the 2000 Irrevocable Trust “shall forfeit his or her entire interest thereunder.” Brown noted in both documents that the persons described therein, i.e., the six named children and their legitimate issue, comprised “the entire class ... acknowledge[d] to be [his] heirs and issue.” Brown expressly disavowed any other potential beneficiaries, stating, “I have intentionally failed to provide for any other relatives or other [403 S.C. 418]persons, whether claiming, or to claim, to be an heir of mine or not.” Brown stated any person not provided for in his will or trust “whether or not claiming to be a beneficiary, party in interest, or otherwise shall not have standing or be qualified to contest, claim an interest in or otherwise dispute the disposition of [his] estate as he herewith disclaims and disinherits any such person.” Brown stated that any challenge by such persons to the disposition of his estate or the validity of the documents would “be considered an affront to [his] wishes,” and “shall be vigorously challenged as such by his fiduciaries.” In the trust agreement, Brown declared that he was not then married and that he did not want the trust estate to ever go to a spouse: “It is the Grantor's [Brown's] intention that the trust estate be available only to the beneficiaries and not ... the Grantor's past or future spouse. The Trustee(s) are directed to enforce this provision.”

Thereafter, on November 27, 2001, Brown and Tommie Rae Hynie (“Tommie Rae”) executed a Prenuptial Agreement in which Tommie Rae acknowledged that she was entering the agreement knowingly and voluntarily and that she had the opportunity to receive the advice of counsel of her own choosing. Tommie Rae waived any right to Brown's property or the receipt of alimony in the event of a separation or divorce from Brown, and she agreed to waive any claim for an interest in his estate in the event of his death, including the rights to a statutory share of Brown's estate or to any interest as an omitted spouse.

On December 14, 2001, Brown and Tommie Rae participated in a marriage ceremony in Aiken County. In 2004, Brown brought annulment proceedings against Tommie Rae after discovering that she had participated in a marriage ceremony in Texas in 1997 with another individual, Javed Ahmed. Brown attached documents to his pleadings showing Tommie Rae had not been granted an annulment of the prior marriage until April 15, 2004. Tommie Rae counterclaimed for a divorce from Brown on the ground of physical cruelty, and in his reply, Brown sought genetic testing of a son, respondent “James B.,” born to Tommie Rae on June 11, 2001. The parties dismissed their respective suits in a consent order filed August 16, 2004, in which Tommie Rae agreed to “forever waive any claim of a common law marriage to [Brown], both [403 S.C. 419]now and in the future.” The parties thereafter had an on-and-off-again relationship up until Brown's death on December 25, 2006.

In 2007, five of the six adult children Brown named in his will as well as Tommie Rae, all Respondents herein, brought actions to set aside Brown's will and the 2000 Irrevocable Trust based on undue influence. They alleged Brown's estate should, instead, pass

[743 S.E.2d 751]

by the laws of intestate succession. Tommie Rae claimed that she was entitled to an elective share or an omitted spouse's share of Brown's estate and that her son, James B. (via a guardian ad litem), was entitled to a share of the estate as an omitted child. The probate court transferred these claims and all filings thereafter to the circuit court.

Appellants were initially appointed by the circuit court in March 2007 as Special Administrators with limited duties to oversee the handling of Brown's estate after petitions were filed by some of Brown's family members seeking the removal of Dallas, Bradley, and Cannon as personal representatives. The court made the selection after the parties could not agree on who should be appointed. Ultimately, the...

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36 practice notes
  • Brown-Thomas v. Hynie, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-02191-JMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • August 21, 2019
    ...as a lawful heir. (ECF No. 80-1 at 3.) James Brown's adult children also brought challenges to set aside his will. See Wilson v. Dallas , 403 S.C. 411, 743 S.E.2d 746, 750–51 (S.C. 2013). (See also ECF No. 80-1 at 3; ECF No. 80-2 at 29.) As a result of these collective challenges, James Bro......
  • Brown-Thomas v. Hynie, Civil Action No.: 1:18-cv-02191-JMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • September 12, 2019
    ...as a lawful heir. (ECF No. 80-1 at 3.) James Brown's adult children also brought challenges to set aside his will. See Wilson v. Dallas , 403 S.C. 411, 743 S.E.2d 746, 750–51 (2013). (See also ECF No. 80-1 at 3; ECF No. 80-2 at 29.) As a result of these collective challenges, James Brown's ......
  • Brown-Thomas v. Hynie, Civil Action No.: 1:18-cv-02191-JMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • February 6, 2019
    ...as a lawful heir. (ECF No. 80-1 at 3.) James Brown's adult children also brought challenges to set aside his will. See Wilson v. Dallas , 403 S.C. 411, 743 S.E.2d 746, 750–51 (2013). (See also ECF No. 80-1 at 3; ECF No. 80-2 at 29.) As a result of these collective challenges, James Brown's ......
  • Brown v. Sojourner (In re Brown), Appellate Case No. 2018-001990
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 17, 2020
    ...affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the matter to the circuit court, finding the settlement was improper. Wilson v. Dallas , 403 S.C. 411, 743 S.E.2d 746 (2013).In 2014, following the remand, the circuit court took up Respondent's claims for an elective share or an omitted spou......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
36 cases
  • Brown-Thomas v. Hynie, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-02191-JMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • August 21, 2019
    ...as a lawful heir. (ECF No. 80-1 at 3.) James Brown's adult children also brought challenges to set aside his will. See Wilson v. Dallas , 403 S.C. 411, 743 S.E.2d 746, 750–51 (S.C. 2013). (See also ECF No. 80-1 at 3; ECF No. 80-2 at 29.) As a result of these collective challenges, James Bro......
  • Brown-Thomas v. Hynie, Civil Action No.: 1:18-cv-02191-JMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • September 12, 2019
    ...as a lawful heir. (ECF No. 80-1 at 3.) James Brown's adult children also brought challenges to set aside his will. See Wilson v. Dallas , 403 S.C. 411, 743 S.E.2d 746, 750–51 (2013). (See also ECF No. 80-1 at 3; ECF No. 80-2 at 29.) As a result of these collective challenges, James Brown's ......
  • Brown-Thomas v. Hynie, Civil Action No.: 1:18-cv-02191-JMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • February 6, 2019
    ...as a lawful heir. (ECF No. 80-1 at 3.) James Brown's adult children also brought challenges to set aside his will. See Wilson v. Dallas , 403 S.C. 411, 743 S.E.2d 746, 750–51 (2013). (See also ECF No. 80-1 at 3; ECF No. 80-2 at 29.) As a result of these collective challenges, James Brown's ......
  • Brown v. Sojourner (In re Brown), Appellate Case No. 2018-001990
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 17, 2020
    ...affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the matter to the circuit court, finding the settlement was improper. Wilson v. Dallas , 403 S.C. 411, 743 S.E.2d 746 (2013).In 2014, following the remand, the circuit court took up Respondent's claims for an elective share or an omitted spou......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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