Probate Battles – Lessons from MLK

Probate Battles – Lessons from MLK

With Martin Luther King Day just passed, and an Oscar-contending movie of his life in theaters, it seems unfitting that there is an ongoing probate battle over King’s legacy. His two sons Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King took their sister, Bernice King to court on January 13, 2015 over the possession of two King artifacts. One being the bible he traveled with as a young man and the other, the Nobel Peace Prize he had been awarded in 1964. Last year, the brothers succeeded in getting their sister to hand over the relics to the court, but since then they’ve been held in a safe deposit box in which only the judge has a key. Bernice King claims that her two brothers aim to sell these objects stating that it is an act of “desperation beyond comprehension”.

Dangers of Dying Without a Will

Why are the siblings in the position they are in? Unfortunately MLK acted like too many others and did not prepare any estate planning for himself or his loved ones. As a direct result of this lack of planning, probate battles often develop which can lead to serious and unfortunate results.

Without a will or living trust there was no direction for MLK’s family on basic issues such as who should have control, what should be the goals of the estate and what the process should be to resolve disagreements.

As time has passed it is increasingly clear that the siblings have opposing goals. Before they showed up in court, the three siblings each owning 1/3 of the estate and took a vote in order to sell the objects. Martin and Dexter voted to sell, Bernice did not. It seems contradictory that the Bible and the Nobel Peace Prize, both symbols of extraordinary deeds and motivation for peace and harmony have caused such angst within his own family. It is now up to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney to decide the fate of the objects.

Lessons For Your Family

As MLK’s estate demonstrates probate battles can occur even among direct siblings. Procrastination is a critical problem in this area and it be putting your family at future risk. When you are ready to protect your family, an AV rated law firm, is here help you work through your goals and address your concerns.


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