Etta James’ Power of Attorney Challenged by Husband

R&B singer Etta James, who has been diagnosed with dementia and undergoing leukemia, is gravely ill and her husband of 41 years is seeking a California court order to control more than $1 million of her money.  Her doctor has stated she can no longer sign her name and she needs help with feeding, dressing and hygiene.  Etta James has given power of attorney to sons Donto James and Sametto James, and Donto’s wife Christy, in February 2008.  However, Etta James’ husband, Artis Mills is challenging the power of attorney, and has petitioned the court to control her money.  The battle started in last year, when Artis Mills asked a family court to declare two bank accounts, which totaled approximately $1 Million, as marital property, thus allowing Mills to access the accounts.  Mills claimed he wanted to use the money to pay for Etta James’ medical care.  Her son, Donto James, did not object to the use of the money for Etta James’ care, but wanted an independent administrator to handle the finances. Artis Mills claims Etta James was not of sound mind when she executed the power of attorney.  Full article:  LA Times.

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint a person or organization to handle your affairs while you are unavailable or, in the event you are incapacitated, unable to do so.  Like a Last Will and Testament, you must be of sound mind to execute a power of attorney.  Once you are deemed to be incapacitated, you may no longer execute this document.  It is not uncommon for a power of attorney to be challenged if the person who executes the power of attorney may not have been all there when he or she signed it.  If the court finds that the power of attorney is invalid, then the person, who at this point is incapacitated, is no longer allowed to execute a new one. This leads to the inevitable question of who should be in control of the incapacitated person’s money.  Most often the court will appoint an independent administrator, so that there are no issues of a family member taking money from the incapacitated person once he or she is appointed by the court.  It is important to plan ahead and execute these estate planning documents while your capacity is not under scrutiny.

The attorneys at Leeds, Morelli & Brown, P.C. have worked with a variety of families in Nassau and Suffolk counties, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Staten Island.  For questions regarding estate planning, please contact an attorney at the Leeds Morelli & Brown P.C. law firm for a free consultation at 1-888-556-2529 or visit the firm’s website at

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