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Lawsuit dropped, Martin Luther King Jr.'s heirs continue disputes

While the dispute over the Bible and Nobel Peace Prize that are part of the Martin Luther King Jr. estate continues, the lawsuit against the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change has been dropped. According to reports, the lawsuit was first filed in August 2013, after King's estate claimed that that the center had been negligent in protecting the artifacts and documents in its collection.

While the lawsuit was officially between the estate and the center, it has also been a family dispute because the center is headed by King's daughter, while his sons act as majority board leaders for the estate. The lawsuit has originally wanted the center to not be able to use King's likeness or name unless a new chief executive officer was chosen. The lawsuit was voluntarily dropped by the estate, however, citing a "show of good faith" and a desire to resolve the family's differences.

The other lawsuit regarding the Bible and the Nobel Peace Prize is still pending judgment. The estate board had wanted to put the items up for sale, but King's daughter tried to stop the sale, spurring the suit. If the lawsuit does not reach a settlement or is not dropped or dismissed, it is scheduled for a February trial.

One possible contributing factor in the ongoing legal issues the estate has faced is that fact that King did not leave behind a will when he died. While a will is not the only option and may not even be the best for many New Jersey residents, a thorough estate plan that accounts for all assets can help decrease the risk of these types of disputes.

Source: Reuters, "One suit dropped, one remains in dispute between MLK's children" David Beasley, Jan. 23, 2015

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