She ranks as one of the greatest civil rights icons of all time, all starting with a seemingly simple act of refusing to move from a bus seat. Rosa Parks passed away at age 92 in 2005, living in a modest apartment in Detroit, Michigan. Her estate was modest too. Officially valued at $372, 624 in monetary terms, but of course priceless in terms of memories and historical significance.
Her final wishes were not so modest. She assigned all of her belongings to a charitable institute to “educate and motivate youth and adults, particularly African American persons, for self and community betterment.” She called this the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. She named her close friend, Elaine Steele, along with a retired Detroit judge, to oversee her estate. She also named Elaine Steele as a prominent beneficiary, including a 90% recipient of royalties, with 10% passing to her nieces and nephews.
But Parks’ many nieces and nephews did not agree with her final will and trust, which were created in July, 1998. They sued to challenge the estate plan, accusing Steele of using undue influence on Parks. Steele denied it. After the case was started, amid claims of mismanagement, the probate judge removed Steele and the other appointed executor and replaced them with two local attorneys.