James Brown’s Will: Are You Moving Slowly Toward Closing After 14 Years?

Ms. Hynie, a singer who met Mr. Brown in 1998 after putting on a show in Las Vegas, has been a key player in the legal battle for Mr. Brown’s assets. Regardless of what Mr. Brown had explained in his will regarding beneficiaries, such as his widow, she would have been entitled under state law to a third of its patrimonial value, said Professor Malagrinò.

But when Mr. Brown and Mrs. Hynie married in 2001, she married another man: Javed Ahmed. She said in court that she later found out that he had three wives in his native Pakistan. (After Mr. Brown learned of Ms. Hynie’s previous marriage, he applied for an annulment in 2004.) Ms. Hynie’s attorneys have argued that Mr. Ahmed was a bigamist and that, as a result, his previous marriage was void. The lower courts had upheld that opinion and declared her marriage to Mr. Brown valid.

But, citing its 2008 ruling in another case, the state’s highest court did not agree: “All marriages contracted while one party has a living spouse are not valid unless the party’s first marriage has been ‘declared void ‘by order of a competent court. ” In the case of Ms. Hynie’s marriage to Mr. Ahmed, no such statement had been produced.

Robert Rosen, one of Ms. Hynie’s attorneys, said in a statement: “Naturally, we are very disappointed with the ruling.” He said he planned to “file a petition to reconsider and re-listen to the decision.”

Ms. Hynie, who was entitled as a spouse to a portion of Mr. Brown’s music copyright under federal law, has already resolved part of her dispute with the estate. Under that agreement, Ms. Hynie had agreed to give the charity 65 percent of the proceeds from her so-called withdrawal rights, copyrights that, once sold, can return to the composer or his heirs after several decades, according to court documents.

“Mrs. Brown,” Rosen said, “he had given up his inheritance and charitable trust contests and agreed to give substantial funds of his valuable federal rights to the charitable trust for needy students, who would not otherwise go to the charity. In our opinion, according to his plan, many more millions of dollars would have derived from those federal rights to the charitable trust if it had been confirmed as the surviving spouse. “