But then, amid complaints by the actress's friends, the event was abruptly canceled, with Murphy's husband citing severe health problems. Now, the foundation says it will return all donations and not solicit more until its nonprofit status is officially approved.
The problems have brought criticism on its founders – Murphy's husband, Simon Monjack, and her mother, Sharon Murphy – and left friends disgruntled that there still has not been a public memorial for the 32-year-old star of Clueless and 8 Mile.
In interviews with PEOPLE, Monjack and Sharon Murphy sought to explain how the dream to do something good to mark Brittany's memory turned sour. In short, they were in over their head, too plagued by grief to pull together such a complicated project so quickly.
"We Tried," says Monjack"We tried to. I tried to," says Monjack. "I haven't been in a state to do it.
While much of the criticism has been directed at Brittany's widower, her mother says the foundation was all her idea. "The foundation has nothing to do with Simon – it was me," says Sharon Murphy. "My daughter and I always talked about doing that. It wasn't Simon. I wanted to be clear about that."
Murphy says she proceeded with her plans based on advice she was given shortly after her daughter's death.
"Right after [Brittany] died, someone had come here to the house, who runs the biggest foundations, and I was just in such an awful way," Murphy says. "We thought at first we were going to have the memorial right away, because people were here, and that turned out not to be a good idea."
Adds Monjack, "A lot of people had asked where to donate money to. It was a private foundation at this stage. … It was formed by people for us. That was Sharon's thing, it was her dream."
Too Much PaperworkBut while the foundation was born with the best of intentions, Murphy and Monjack say, the pair were simply unprepared for the red tape involved.
"This wonderful person got the paperwork in time, and said why don't you launch it with the memorial," Murphy says. "There were already 1,000 people coming, and that's why [we went ahead]."
Monjack says that while they created a private foundation with an eye to forming an official non-profit organization down the road, the memorial event was "a bit too soon." They had not even figured out which charities would benefit. "We hadn't got that far yet," he says.
Murphy adds that the final draft of the invitations was not even meant to have a request for donations, and that the early version was not supposed to be made public.
With more time to do things properly, the memorial will likely be scheduled again in a few months.
"There are so many rumors and conjecture about who I am," Monjack said. "This was something I just wanted to leave to Sharon. I didn't want anyone to think that I was trying to illicitly profit from my wife's death, which is so ridiculous as to be beyond belief."
"It's just so disheartening," Sharon Murphy adds. "People have been tarnishing it."