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MLK family fight heading to trial

A few months ago I blogged about the court battle between the three surviving children of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Well the case has only gotten uglier as it's progressed.Martin_Luther_King_Jr 2a

Yesterday, the attorneys were in court because Dexter King -- the one in control of the King Estate -- filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case against him.  The judge refused, paving the way for a full jury trial on the claim that he breached his fiduciary duty against his two siblings. 

Dexter's brother and sister believe he withheld financial records, engaged in self-dealing and cut them out of important negotiations affecting the estate and corporation they own to manage their famous father's legacy.  Dexter, in turn, counter-sued his sister demanding that she turn over to him a set of love letters between their father and mother as well as MLK's Nobel Peace Prize.  The judge ordered that the documents be given to him to hold until the case is resolved.

The judge also required Dexter King to hold a shareholders' meeting, which reportedly will be the first once since 2004 (according to this CNN article about the case).  Will this resolve the case and avoid making it even messier and more public than it has already been?  We'll have to stay tuned to find out.

This case illustrates an important point for those administering estates and trusts ... open and frank communication is almost always the best policy.  Secrecy often leads to distrust and family fights.  That's why experienced probate litigation attorneys usually try to encourage executors, trustees and beneficiaries to talk and share information, to hopefully keep estate and trust disagreements out of court.

Posted by:  Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law.  You can email him at awmayoras @

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