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Who has rights to Malcolm X's diary -- estate or publisher?

Depending on how an estate plan is structured, the administration of an estate can be handled relatively quickly, or the heirs may have administrative concerns many years after the assets have been distributed. This latter situation applies in the estate of civil rights leader Malcolm X.

His estate, otherwise known as X Legacy, is suing a publishing company, Third World Press, over the rights to publish a diary Malcolm X wrote while traveling in the Middle East and Africa. Ten years ago, Malcolm X's daughters loaned the diary to the New York Public Library, but X Legacy says Third World Press has no right to publish the material.

Complicating the dispute is that one of Malcolm X's daughters worked with a journalist to edit the book, which, if published, would be available under the title "The Diary of Malcolm X."

The dispute raises general questions about estate administration and changing family dynamics, but also questions of copyright law.

Sometimes the way an estate is structured leads to inevitable problems among heirs. In other cases, the family members come to suspect that their loved one's estate isn't being properly handled, or an appointed executor of an estate simply doesn't know how to carry out fiduciary duties.

In each of these situations, it is important for the parties involved to have experienced legal guidance. The goal in these situations is to resolve and prevent conflicts, as well as preserve estate assets.

As for the X Legacy lawsuit, New Jersey residents may want to look for updates on whether or not "The Diary of Malcolm X" makes it to bookstore shelves.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor, "Malcolm X's diary: Can it be published without his family's permission?" Husna Haq, Nov. 13, 2013

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