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Last Updated: Friday, 2 February 2007, 10:45 GMT
Soul star's widow sues for estate
Tomi Rae Hynie and her child
Tomi Rae Hynie claims she was married to Brown when he died
The partner of late soul legend James Brown has launched a legal bid for half of his estate and access to their home.

Tomi Rae Hynie has filed a petition at probate court in South Carolina saying she is the star's surviving spouse, a claim which his family dispute.

She wants to be allowed into Brown's home to retrieve possessions that belong to her and their son, aged five.

The 36-year-old, a backing singer for Brown, said she was locked out of the house after his death in December.

"She's not asking the court to live there," said Ms Hynie's lawyer, Robert Rosen.

"She has a right to go in and get her stuff - furniture, her clothing, her son's toys.

"They [Brown's family] keep saying that they're going to do it but they never do it, so we're going to ask a judge to order them to do it."

Buddy Dallas, Brown's former lawyer, said Ms Hynie had never asked for any personal items from the singer's home.

He would not say how much the estate was worth, and the court papers do not provide an estimate.

'Already married'

James Brown lies in state at the Apollo Theatre
Thousands turned out to pay their respects to James Brown
Brown's lawyers contend that Ms Hynie was already married when she exchanged vows with the soul star in 2001, making their marriage void.

Her previous marriage was annulled but she and Brown never held another ceremony, they say.

Ms Hynie, and the son she had with Brown, were left out of the singer's will, which was filed earlier this month.

It named Brown's six adult children and called for many of his personal possessions, including clothes, jewellery, boats and automobiles, to be divided among them.

The will does not cover many of the singer's primary assets, including music rights and his home, which have been owned by a trust since 2000.

Ms Hynie is contesting the validity of both the trust and the will, her lawyer said.

Brown died on Christmas Day, aged 73, after being admitted to hospital with severe pneumonia.

Several memorial services were held for the singer, with both fans and celebrities paying tributes to the self-proclaimed Godfather Of Soul, who was best known for hits such as I Got You (I Feel Good) and Living in America.

His body remains in a sealed, gold casket in an undisclosed location awaiting a decision on where to bury it.




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