james-brown-and-tommie-rae-hynie brown*Tommie Rae Hynie Brown is the widow of James Brown, according to a South Carolina judge.

The New York Times ArtsBeat reports that the Godfather of Soul’s wife could be entitled to a share of Brown’s estate, which is valued to be as much as much as $100 million by some estimates, if Judge Doyet Early III’s ruling stands.

“All bigamous marriages are void” from the start, Early wrote in a 46-page ruling. “And because Mr. Brown in 2004 abandoned his effort to have his own marriage to Mrs. Brown annulled, “he was married to Tommie Raye Hynie Brown at the time of his death.”

The judge’s ruling was welcome news to Mrs. Brown as her lawyer, Robert Rosen, voiced his client’s joy over the decision.

“We are obviously very happy with this result,” Rosen told the Times in a telephone interview. “My client has been maligned throughout this process, but she is the wife and has now been declared the wife.”

The ruling is the latest development regarding Tommie Raye Hynie Brown and her battle over her late husband’s estate. The Times notes that Tommie Raye Hynie Brown’s marital status has been in question since James Brown died on Christmas Day 2006. Although the couple was married in 2001, James Brown filed for an annulment in 2004, after learning that his spouse was already married to another man.

As a result, the validity of Tommie Raye Hynie Brown’s previous marriage to Javed Ahmed was called into question on the grounds that Ahmed already had several wives in his home country, despite needing an American spouse to be able to remain in the country.

As it stands now, a solid determination regarding whether Tommie Raye Hynie Brown will actually get a share of the Brown estate has yet to be made. The singing legend’s will, which was written in 2000, stated that he wanted to leave the bulk of his estate, including copyrights to more than 800 songs and about 100 albums, to a trust that would provide scholarships to needy children. Another point to note is that the will specifically excluded James Brown’s heirs, including any wife, from receiving those assets.

Adding to the situation is the fact that Mrs. Brown also signed a pre-nuptial agreement in which she renounced any potential claims to her husband’s estate. Those and other issues haven’t been resolved. In light of this, Rosen admitted to being willing to pursue an out-of-court agreement with other interested parties, who include James Brown’s children.