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Rosa Parks Trust and Estate Tied Up In Lengthy Court Fight

Civil rights icon Rosa Parks passed away at the age of 92 on October 25, 2005, in Detroit, Michigan. Almost six years later, her legacy is still tied up in a lengthy court battle.  The case features allegations of abuse, cronyism and corruption by the probate judge as well as the two lawyers he appointed to oversee the estate and trust.   Rosa Parks bus

It also involves who will receive all of the considerable civil rights memorabilia owned by Rosa Parks when she was alive, and even the rights to use her name and likeness.

Parks' will and trust left the majority of her assets to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, operated by Rosa Parks' longtime friend, Elaine Steele.  Parks and Steele had formed this Institute.  Steele says she was close to Parks for 45 years and that Parks looked at her as the "daughter she never had."

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Petition Filed Seeking to Reopen Barnes Art Case

The Friends of the Barnes Foundation group is mounting a last-ditch effort to try to reverse the fate of one of the most valuable private art collections ever assembled.  Dr. Albert Barnes

The late Dr. Albert Barnes gathered together unmatched works of post-impressionist art, including paintings by Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso, Monet and other masters.  It has not only been widely recognized as the greatest collection of its kind, but it's been valued at more than 25 billion dollars.

Dr. Barnes created a very detailed Trust to maintain the collection in a private facility apart from the commercial art "elite," which he despised.  Given the extraordinary value of the collection -- both monetarily and artistically -- perhaps it should be no surprise that the art elite of Philadelphia have done everything they can to get their hands on the collection.

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Malcolm X legacy tied up in family feud

Before he was assassinated in 1964, Malcolm X was a polarizing figure.  He was revered by many as one of the greatest African-American figures ever, but was accused of racism and anti-semitism by others.  Perhaps it should not be surprising that his financial legacy is embroiled in conflict and strife.  The resulting family feud has created a mess that has not been resolved for more than 14 years.  Malcom X

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little, but became El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.  His widow, Dr. Betty Shabazz, died tragically from severe burns she received in a fire in 1997, when she was 61.  The fire was set by their 12-year old grandson. 

No will of Dr. Shabazz was found, although some family members thought she had one.  The probate court in New York overseeing her estate appointed two of the couple's six daughters as the estate administrators.  

While the estate was at one time valued at around $1.4 million, with the potential to earn much more, an unpaid tax debt has continued to grow as the family fights.  This New York Times article about the family battle reports that the tax debt has grown so large during the fighting that it now exceeds the value of the estate.

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New legal battle coming for Michael Jackson Estate

The Los Angeles Times had an interesting article this past weekend about the Michael Jackson Estate and a new legal hurdle it faces.  The King of Pop certainly didn't do much to make it easy for his estate executors or his heirs.  This development could add new fuel to the fire between his family and the music executive and lawyer in charge of his estate and trust. Michael Jackson Trial and Heirs

As we've written extensively about before, Michael's mother, Katherine Jackson was in a nasty fight with the executors over control of the estate last year.  That is, they were feuding until Katherine dropped the legal challenge and stepped aside.  In fact, according to the LA Times article, she now feels executors John Branca and John McClain are doing "a very good job".

The problem is she believes that the cash allowance of $7,000 to $8,000 per month, which the pair gives her from the estate, is not enough.  While the estate also pays other expenses for her as well as Michael's kids (adding up to millions of dollars, according to the estate's lawyer), Katherine wants more.

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Joe Jackson refuses to stay out of the Michael Jackson estate

Even though Michael Jackson's father was not included as a beneficiary in his will or trust, it hasn't stopped Joe Jackson from trying to intercede in the legal proceedings surrounding the estate.  First, he asked the judge to remove estate executors John Branca and John McClain.Joe Jackson Michael Jackson

The probate judge dismissed his claims, saying he lacked "standing" in the estate because he was not a beneficiary.  In other words, he did not have enough of a financial interest in the estate to be able to legally complain about who was in charge.

Recently, Joe Jackson filed an appeal of that decision, arguing that he was financially dependent on his son while he was alive, so he did have enough of an interest to attack the executors. 

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Gary Coleman estate battles about to heat up

It's been a relatively-quiet couple of months in the Gary Coleman estate, after the two weeks of craziness that followed his sudden death on May 28, 2010.  It looks like that's about to change.Gary Coleman wedding picture

A short recap:  Coleman's ex-wife, Shannon Price, used her medical power of attorney document to terminate Coleman's life support, which upset his estranged parents.  They then filed to open his estate, saying he died without a will, and stopped Price from planning his funeral.

But there was a will.  Coleman's ex-manager, Dion Mial, came forward with a 1999 will naming him as the executor in charge.  But wait! 

There was a later will, in 2005, naming Coleman's female friend and former companion, Anna Gray as the one to be in charge of his estate.  So she's in control, right?  No!

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The Barnes Art Collection Controversy, Part I

The powerful story surrounding the legacy of Dr. Albert C. Barnes and his historic art collection was captured in a documentary released on DVD last week, called The Art of the Steal.Matisse

While this isn't the typical way we track down stories, it certainly was highly entertaining.  The Art of the Steal is a must-watch; it's not only moving and compelling, it is thoroughly enjoyable.

So who was Dr. Albert Barnes?  Raised in a Philadelphia working-class family, he found extraordinary wealth by inventing a new antiseptic medicine to treat and prevent venereal diseases at the start of the 20th Century.  He used his wealth to build what is widely considered to be the greatest collection of post-impressionist art ever assembled.  It includes hundreds of works by masters like Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh . . . and on and on.  The collection has been valued at 25 to 30 billion dollars, at least.

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