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Children of MLK dispute over peace prize, Bible

Martin Luther King, Jr., was busy fighting for civil rights when he was assassinated in April 1968. He was busy long before that, too, and he may not have been as concerned about the future of his estate as his surviving children are now.

King's three surviving children are embroiled in a dispute over what to do with the civil rights leader's Bible and Nobel Peace Prize. According to a lawyer representing the estate, for which all three children are board members, the heirs agreed nearly 20 years ago to give up their individual rights to many of King's former possessions, including his copy of the holy book and his peace prize medal.

King's two surviving sons want to uphold that agreement and categorize the Bible and the medal as estate assets. However, King's surviving daughter claims that those items fall outside of the estate's reach.

The point of contention between the siblings has arisen over the proposed sale of the Bible and the prize medal. In January, at a specially called board meeting, the brothers voted in favor of the sale, while the sister voted against. Her attorney said that his client disapproves of the estate's selling its most prize possessions.

A judge hearing the case ordered that a safe deposit box be used to house the items until the ownership dispute is settled. In the meantime, the court will hold the keys to the box. The judge went on to say that he expected the estate to prevail over the sister's wishes.

If Jersey City residents have valuable items over which a possible family dispute might erupt, then it is a good idea to clearly address those items in a will. In these cases, ambiguities often lead to misunderstandings, even when the estate owner has all the best intentions. 

Source: New Jersey Herald, "Court to control MLD Bible and Nobel Peace Prize," Kate Brumback, Feb. 19, 2014

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