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Family Disputes Continue Between Martin Luther King Jr.’s Heirs

The estate of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. is making the news again. The estate has had its legal ups and down in the past years, as King’s three children have sued and counter-sued each other. This time, however, it is King’s bible and Nobel Peace Prize that are at the center of the court action.

According to reports, the two brothers — who are in control of the estate — originally sued their sister in an attempt to force her to give them the bible and Nobel Peace Prize. A judge, however, has ordered that both the bible and the Nobel Peace Prize be kept in a safe deposit box until the three children can work out whether the objects should be sold. The bible had been on display at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and was used to swear in President Barack Obama for his second term.

According to King’s daughter, her two brothers want to sell the items, but she believes that the items should be kept in the custody of the center. She claims that her brothers are simply trying to profit monetarily from the sale of the items. It remains to be seen what the court will decide in this case, but the judge thinks it likely that the items will be deemed possessions of the estate.

While this is certainly a high-profile case including objects of historical importance, it also serves as an example of how family disputes over objects can occur after a person’s death. It is important to ensure that estate planning is done as completely as possible, including what should happen to a person’s personal items, even if they seem relatively unimportant at the time. Having a thorough will drawn up by an attorney can help lessen the chance of heirs fighting over the deceased person’s assets.

Source: CNN, “Judge orders MLK’s Bible, Nobel Peace Prize stored in safe deposit box” Marlena Baldacci and Chelsea J. Carter, Feb. 21, 2014

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