MLK Estate: The Sentimental Power of Personal Property


Almost 50 years after his assassination, the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King is still tied up in the courts. The three children of the civil rights leader are at odds over what to do with his copy of the Bible and his Nobel Prize Medal. His two sons, evidently needing cash, have voted to sell the items, but King’s daughter refuses to give them up.

In a surprising twist reported by the Associated Press, former President Jimmy Carter, despite his recent disclosure of brain cancer, has agreed to mediate the dispute.

“I am honored to be working with the King Family in an effort to resolve the outstanding legal issues relating to their remarkable family legacy,” Carter said in a statement issued after a meeting at the Carter Center on Monday. “I have great respect for each of the three heirs of this legacy. They are working diligently with me, and I believe we will be able to resolve these difficult disputes once and for all.”

The family expressed appreciation for his help:

A string of legal disputes have divided the King heirs in recent years, but Bernice, Martin III and Dexter released a joint statement expressing optimism after their meeting with Carter.

“We are truly honored and encouraged by President Carter’s involvement, and we look forward to a positive resolution,” they said.

It is remarkable that a dispute over personal property items, albeit historically significant items, could rise to such a level that a former president of the United States would be called on to help reach a resolution.

However, it is not unusual for disputes to arise in any family over items with sentimental value. Estate plans which make a clear designation of who is authorized to make the final decision of what to do with such items are less likely to end up in court.

The entire Associated Press article can be found here.

Photo by: GT Cooper


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