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Ray Charles estate encounters more legal problems

Two years before his death in 2004, singer Ray Charles created a $500,000 trust for each of his 12 children. In exchange, they were to relinquish and waive any further claims to his estate. That, at least, is what The Ray Charles Foundation claims in a lawsuit it recently filed against seven of Charles' children.

The dispute reportedly centers on 51 songs written or co-written by the singer, some of which boosted Charles to the top of the charts early on in his career. According to the foundation, the adult children have sent copyright termination notices to music publishers claiming they own the songs, the same ones the foundations claims to own.

The foundation-which supports research and education programs for the hearing impaired and youth education programs-claims that the wrongful claims have created confusion over ownership of the songs, and have likely damaged the permanent value of the copyrighted assets.

The children, according to the suit, are attempting to make use of a particular provision in the 1976 federal copyright act which permits copyright holders a one-time chance to renegotiate older copyrights. The foundation, though, claims that Charles renegotiated the copyrights in 1980.

Since his death, Ray Charles' estate has gone through a fair number of difficulties in its attempt to settle. Such travails in estate administration are not uncommon for the rich and famous, who often have complicated lives and relationships that increase the chances of difficulty.

One of the tasks of estate planning is to minimize the possibilities of family disputes after one's death. There are a number of techniques one can pursue toward this end, but those that are chosen should serve the specific needs of each individual.

Source : CNN, "Ray Charles' foundation sues his children ," Alan Duke, April 1, 2012

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