Etta James (1938-2012) – Singer
Etta James, born Jamesetta Hawkins, was an American singer, whose style spanned a variety of music genres including blues, R&B, soul, rock and roll, jazz, and gospel. In the beginning of her career, James possessed the vocal range of a contralto, and was marketed as an R&B and doo-wop singer in the mid-50s. Then after signing with Chess Records in 1960, James broke through as a traditional pop-styled singer, covering jazz and pop music standards on her debut album, At Last!. As James got older, her voice deepened and coarsened, moving her musical style in her later years into the genres of soul and jazz. Later in her career she faced a number of personal problems, but made a musical resurgence in the late 1980s with the album Seven Year Itch. James is credited as having bridged the gap between rhythm, blues and rock and roll, and has influenced many artists like Diana Ross, Christina Aguilera, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, and many more.
Etta James’ final year of life was marred by controversy, between her husband of 42 years, Artis Mills, and her two adult sons, Donto and Sametto, from prior relationships. Mills married the singer in 1969 and is the estate’s conservator, as well as Donto and Sametto’s stepfather. Her 2008 power of attorney gave legal authority to one of her sons, but her husband claimed it was signed after James already had dementia and was not competent. They fought in court over who would make her financial and medical decisions, and even how much money her husband would be allowed to have to pay for her care. Donto James also sought to be appointed temporary conservator. Fortunately, the family reached a resolution before James was declared terminally ill. The settlement allowed her husband to remain conservator, to make her medical and financial decisions including her medical care.
Etta James was an inspirational singer, but even acclaimed singers can fail to properly plan. If you want to minimize the consequences of failing to properly plan your estate, then contact The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. for a free initial consultation on estate planning, trust planning, and/or probate issues.