The children of Martin Luther King Jr. have been engaged in high-profile estate litigation since 2006, when their mother passed away. The latest dispute centers around whether to sell their father’s personal traveling Bible and Nobel Peace prize.  Several of the children have asked a court to order their sister to turn over both items, which she currently has in her possession and which she does not want sold.

This dispute over these valuable assets is not the first example of a situation where a death causes families to experience strife because a lot of money and important items are at stake. It is also not the first to make private family disagreements very public. To avoid the risk of families being torn apart after a death, it is important to have a detailed will.  Heirs and beneficiaries who have an interest in estate assets also need to understand the probate process and seek help from a qualified probate attorney. Bertolino LLP can help throughout the probate process.

Probate Litigation Can Create Problems for Some Families

The larger the amount of money that is at stake, the greater the chance that the probate process will devolve into expensive and stressful estate litigation.  For example, Daily Finance summarized some of the most high profile estate disputes and most involved billions of dollars in disputed funds.

The famous disputed estates included the estate of Leona Helmsley, who left $12 million to her eight-year-old dog and who cut her grandchildren out of the will entirely. Death threats against the dog resulted in a $100,000 security detail being hired for the animal, before a judge resolved the dispute and gave $6 million to the grandchildren, $2 million to the dog and the rest of the money to charity.

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However, the battle over Martin Luther King Jr.’s estate is not just about money, but is also about their father’s legacy.  Unfortunately, no matter the size of the estate, it is common for heirs to fight over not just large fortunes but also cherished family heirlooms or beloved family homes.  There is always the potential for disagreement, and a legal will is the key to avoiding problems that develop between family members after death.  A will should be prepared by an experienced attorney and can include provisions such as a “no-contest” clause to reduce the chances of the will being disputed in court.

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When a last will and testament is created in accordance with all legal requirements, the wishes of the deceased should always be followed even if some family members are not happy with the distribution of property specified in the will.  A probate attorney can guide beneficiaries and the executor of the estate through the process of probating the estate, resolving debts and distributing the assets according to the wishes of the person who has passed away.   Getting legal help is important even when wills are not disputed, but is essential when litigation arises or there are questions about the validity of the will.

Contact Bertolino LLP at 512-717-5432 or visit to schedule a consultation with a probate attorney today.

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