"The compromise orchestrated by the AG in this case destroys the estate plan Brown had established in favor of an arrangement overseen virtually exclusively by the AG," giving large sums of money to relatives even though they were given little or no control in the singer's original will, Associate Justice John Kittredge wrote.
The fight over Brown's estate even spilled over into what to do with his body. Family members fought over the remains for more than two months, leaving Brown's body, still inside a gold casket, sitting in cold storage in a funeral home. Brown was eventually buried in Beech Island, S.C., at the home of one of his daughters. The family wanted to turn the home into a shrine for Brown similar to Elvis Presley's Graceland, but that idea has not gotten off the ground.
An attorney for Adele Pope — one of the trustees who appealed — commended the court for its ruling, which he said would more accurately fulfill Brown's wishes.
"James Brown was certainly devoted to the cause of education," James Richardson said. "Today's decision means that the bulk of his fortune will go to the cause of educating needy children."
McMaster, who left office in 2010, said that he respected the court's decision but stood by the settlement he brokered.
"I believe we took the correct legal steps to make the very best of a bad situation," McMaster said. "We worked hard to see that Mr. Brown's wishes were effectuated to the furthest extent they could be."
Current Attorney General Alan Wilson said he respected the court's decision but felt McMaster had acted legally.
Reach Kinnard at http://www.twitter.com/MegKinnardAP