Ray Charles Foundation Enters Fight To Protect Its Inheritance Against Late Singer’s Children For Wrongful Financial Gain, Breach Of Contract

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The Ray Charles Foundation has filed a lawsuit in United States District Court in Los Angeles against seven of Ray Charles’ children. Filed Thursday, March 29, the lawsuit seeks to prevent the seven from diverting income away from the Foundation and for violating signed agreements pertaining to trusts established for the children by Charles before his death.

The Ray Charles Foundation gives away millions of dollars for educational...purposes, especially directing its efforts toward the...disadvantaged. Therefore, depriving ...a significant portion of its income could have adverse implications...

The Ray Charles Foundation has filed a lawsuit in United States District Court in Los Angeles (CV12-02725) against seven of Ray Charles’ children. Filed Thursday, March 29, the lawsuit seeks to prevent the seven from diverting income away from the Foundation and for violating signed agreements pertaining to trusts established for the children by Charles before his death in 2004.

The litigation stems from documents filed in 2010 by the seven children. The said documents—called termination of transfers under copyright law— seek to claim rights from Warner/Chappell Music to compositions written in whole or in part by Charles during his tenure as an Atlantic Records recording artist. The publishing income from those compositions helps fund the Foundation’s ongoing charitable efforts.

“The Ray Charles Foundation gives away millions of dollars for educational and other charitable purposes, especially directing its efforts toward the underprivileged and disadvantaged,” says Foundation President Valerie Ervin. “Therefore, depriving the Foundation of a significant portion of its income could have adverse implications as to the ability of the Foundation to carry on its charitable works.”

The lawsuit also alleges that this attempt to claim rights to those compositions violates signed agreements the children entered into with Charles two years before his death. According to court documents, Charles met with 10 of his 12 children (two were incarcerated at the time) at a Los Angeles hotel in 2002. He explained that if each child would sign a written agreement that he or she would never be entitled to anything further from Charles' estate, he would set up trusts in the amount of $500,000 for each child—with $10,000 paid that day—and that the remainder would be paid over four years.

The singer also, according to court documents, told the children that in his will he would be leaving everything to The Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders—later renamed The Ray Charles Foundation)—to continue its charitable works. Each of the 10 read and 9 (one child was a minor) signed the written agreement outlining Charles’ provisions. And now each child, including the two not present and the one who was a minor, has received their respective $500,000.

This isn’t the first time the Foundation has had to file suit against Charles’ children. Soon after his death, various children attempted to claim rights to Charles’ name, likeness and trademarks. A federal court subsequently ruled in 2009 that all such rights belong solely to the Ray Charles Foundation as reported by the Associated Press (http://www.cbs8.com/global/story.asp?s=10509819).

Links: http://theraycharlesfoundation.org

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David Brokaw
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