Orlando residents have probably heard about the family of Martin Luther King Jr. engaging in legal battles over his estate. The latest battle concerns King’s Bible and the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in 1964. King’s daughter, Bernice King, says she thought about placing those items on loan but never considered selling them. According to her, selling those items would be sacrilegious and would breach her obligations as a trustee and steward of her father’s legacy.
Her brothers, Dexter and Martin Luther King III, have sued her, resulting in a judge ordering the items to be stored in a safe deposit box until the issue can be settled. The brothers contend that King’s heirs previously agreed to give up their inheritance to the estate. According to Bernice’s attorney, the brothers have a history of lining their pockets with money made from selling estate items.
This isn’t the first time the family has been involved in a dispute over King’s estate. They have sued and countersued each other several times over the years. In 2008, Martin Luther King III and Bernice King sued Dexter King for allegedly converting a substantial portion of a bank account into personal use. In that case, a settlement was reached, avoiding a trial. Bernice King was 5-years-old when her father was assassinated in 1968. Her mother, Coretta Scott King, died in 2006.
This article points out the importance of estate planning. If King had placed provisions in his will specifying how he wanted certain assets to be distributed upon his death, the present controversy might have been avoided. He could have made it known whether he wanted his Bible and Nobel Peace Prize to be loaned out to the public or included in items distributed to heirs.
Source: CNN, “MLK Bible, Nobel Peace Prize held in safe deposit box amid family dispute.“, Victor Blackwell and Marlena Barducci, February 20, 2014