Tomi Rae Hynie is takin' it to the man. Or to the man's estate, at least.
James Brown's longtime partner sued Thursday for half of the late singer's estate, maintaining that she was married to Brown at the time of his death and that she's entitled to a portion of his assets despite the fact that the Godfather of Soul didn't provide for her in his will.
"I have a long hard battle to fight for my husband's rights, for my rights and for my son's rights that have been completely violated during this time," Hynie told the Associated Press. "I am his wife. It's my home."
Brown's attorneys have maintained that his marriage to Hynie—they swapped vows in 2001—was never legal because she was married to someone else at the time, a union that was eventually annulled. Hynie and Brown never made things official after the annulment, however, the lawyers say.
In any case, Brown's will predated his relationship with Hynie and the birth of their child, James Brown Jr., now 5.
According to two petitions, filed in a South Carolina probate court, Hynie, calling herself the "omitted spouse," also demands permission to return to Brown's Beech Island residence to retrieve "personal possessions," including furniture, china, clothing, artwork, electronics and toys she picked out while living there with Brown and their son. The 60-acre property was locked up after Brown died in Atlanta on Christmas Day, and Hynie was barred from the grounds.
Longtime Brown attorney Buddy Dallas said that Hynie had made no previous requests to get into the house.
Meanwhile, Brown's six adult children—all of whom were mentioned when his will was read a few weeks ago—have moved to have Dallas and fellow legal advisors David Cannon and Alford Bradley removed as executors of their patriarch's estate and trust, claiming the attorneys have "mismanaged and otherwise dissipated assets and income of the trust to the detriment of James Brown." (The trust comprises Brown's more sizable assets, such as song rights and his mansion.)
Louis Levenson, who's representing the Brown family in their petition against the trustees, said that Hynie's move Thursday shouldn't affect his clients' case.
Brown's offspring are, however, "pleased that Ms. Hynie has reached the same conclusion" about the inability of Dallas & Co. to be impartial in matters of their late boss' estate, Levenson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"It's pretty difficult to imagine that these three could assume the role of neutrality in this case," he said.
Hearings regarding Hynie's petition and that of Brown's children are scheduled for Feb. 9. Both will take place in the same Aiken County courthouse.
"There could be some fireworks at the hearing," Rosen said, adding that Hynie is not trying to fight Brown's kids. "We are there to have a special administrator appointed, and we're there to get her in the house. I don't think we are in a collision course with the children."
To date, Brown's body is still lying in a sealed gold casket that has been removed to an undisclosed location. The legal wrangling has postponed burial. Another Brown attorney, Debra Opri, told E! Online last month that the family is planning to turn the residence into a Graceland-style memorial site.