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Control of assets spawns disputes for King heirs

Any individual in Denver, Colorado, who has assets or a legacy to pass on to loved ones should carefully consider how wills and other estate documents are written. Failure to make wishes known and set expectations about how assets are handled could result in future disputes between heirs. According to recent news reports, disputes have been the norm for the three surviving Martin Luther King, Jr. heirs.

Reports indicate that the heirs were able to keep disputes mostly out of the spotlight while their mother and older sister were alive. Now that both women have passed away, however, the remaining daughter and two sons of Dr. King have filed a number of lawsuits regarding control of estate assets. One report indicates that within three months the siblings filed a total of three lawsuits over disagreements on the sale or management of assets.

The latest dispute between the siblings involves Dr. King's traveling Bible and Nobel Peace Prize medal. According to reports, the two brothers wish to sell the items while the remaining daughter wants to keep the items to pass down as part of the King legacy. Reports also state that this is not the first time King property has been up for sale. Ten thousand documents from the family's collection were auctioned off by Sotheby's in 2006. The documents went for $32 million, and proceeds were divided equally among the siblings.

One historian who has written about the life of Dr. King said he wasn't surprised to hear about the most recent dispute. He stated that "greed" has played a key role in how the siblings have handled the estate.

Although most people aren't likely to leave behind the kind of historical estate left by Dr. King, it's important to set expectations for your own legacy. Strong estate administration can keep your family from struggling with future decisions and disputes.

Source:  KWWL, "Martin Luther King's children battling over estate" Kate Brumback, Feb. 07, 2014

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