Etta James' estate settled in wake of terminally ill diagnosis

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Blues singer Etta James, who has been suffering from chronic leukemia, is terminally ill according to her doctor. So what happens next?

A Riverside judge will allow Artis Mills – the singer’s husband - to remain the sole conservator of the James estate and to oversee her medical care.

The 73-year-old singer's doctor disclosed last week that James is terminally ill with chronic leukemia, dementia and kidney problems.

Her sons Donto and Sametto had challenged the decisions of Mills, accusing him of mismanaging their mother's money. Mills married the singer in 1969 and is the estate's conservator, as well as Donto and Sametto's stepfather.

At issue was the amount of money available to Mills for the expenses and care of the singer. He wanted $500,000, while the sons wanted it capped at $100,000. Donto James asked a Riverside County judge to appoint him temporary conservator.

Monday's agreement keeps Mills in place as conservator, but caps the funds he can spend on expenses at $350,000.

Her sons also sought and will receive a full financial accounting of their mother’s music catalogue, which spans nearly six decades. Royalties from recordings, including hits like “At Last” and “I’d Rather Go Blind,” are estimated to bring in about $300,000 a year.

David Ritz, who collaborated with James on the book "Etta James: Rage to Survive," says that its difficult to quantify a collection as extensive as hers.

"If you take the totality of Etta James’ work, beginning with her work as a young gospel prodigy and you go through the old Chess [Records] recordings and the jazz recordings, it has earned a permanent place in the annals of American music."

The most recent — and perhaps the last — Etta James album was released last month. It's called “The Dreamer.”

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