Residents in Texas and all over America often have a misconception that when a celebrity dies, surviving family members are immediately left to inherit the riches. That is only the case if proper estate planning was in place prior to the celebrity’s death.

The estate of James Brown, on the other hand, shows that poor estate planning can lead to years of lengthy and costly battles. His heirs have yet to see a dime, even five years after his death

Court battles have tied up the estate of James Brown since his death in 2006. Original estimates of his estate value hit approximately $100 million. A later settlement would have left half of his estate to a charitable trust, with 25 percent of what was left being passed to his widow, and the remainder being divided amongst his children. That settlement, however, has also been tied up in court with trustees who hope to undo it.

The Associate Press has reported earlier this month that his charitable trust has shrunk to $14,000, as a result of his estate remaining in limbo. This is in addition to $20 million in debt that grew.

This case shines light on the importance of estate planning and the complexities of estate battles.

James Brown reportedly did not update his wills or trust following his marriage or the birth of his last child. This lack of estate planning has left his estate in litigation for five years, and possibly even longer. None of his heirs, nor the charitable trust for college students in need, have been paid anything yet.

Texas residents can learn from cases like this, whether they have significant accumulated wealth or not. Though in the media we typically only find estate stories about the rich and famous, many everyday people have similar problems of a different scale.

It is never too early to settle estate planning matters, and ensure that heirs or beneficiaries will not lose inheritances in such lengthy fights.

Source: Forbes, “Court Battles and Debt Leave James Brown Estate Not Feeling Good,” Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Nov. 1, 2011