The foundation established by the legendary singer Ray Charles recently found itself in the position of having to file a lawsuit against the late singer’s children. The basis of the lawsuit is the allegation that the children have violated an agreement they made with their father shortly before he passed away. The agreements, made two years prior to his death, provided a $500,000 trust for each of his 12 children in exchange for the relinquishment and waiver of any further claims to Ray Charles’ estate.
The lawsuit stems from allegations that the children sent copyright termination notices to various music publishers claiming to be the owners of 51 of Ray Charles‘ most famous songs, including “I Got a Woman“ and “What’d I Say.” The foundation, on the other hand, contends that it is the rightful owner of the songs.
The foundation created by Charles supports research and education programs for the hearing impaired as well as youth education programs. In order to continue to function, the foundation depends on income from the intellectual copyrights in question. The lawsuit contends that Charles’ children have diminished the value of copyrights by creating “an enormous cloud” over the copyrighted material.
Who prevails in the lawsuit remains to be seen; however, it illustrates the need for careful and thorough estate planning. Entering into an agreement with potentially beneficiaries to relinquish claims to your estate can be accomplished, but should be done with the help if an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney to make sure the agreement will withstand a future challenge.