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Proper estate planning may avoid probate litigation

Making proper plans for your estate is vital for any adult. Some adults seem to think that they have more time to plan their estate, but that isn't always the case. The death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is continuing to highlight the importance of proper estate planning at an early age. A recent development with his estate has to do with some documents that Harry Belafonte says Dr. King gave him before his death.

The documents in contention were a condolence letter to Coretta Scott-King, an undelivered speech that was in Dr. King's suit pocket when he was killed, and an outline from a speech that Dr. King gave about Vietnam in 1967. Belafonte was trying to sell the documents to fund his nonprofit work. The King and Scott-King estates said that he acquired the papers wrongfully.

Belafonte won a default judgement against the Scott-King estate. Belafonte and Dr. King's estate have recently come to an agreement that allows Belafonte to keep the documents in question. Now, the documents will be returned to Belafonte.

This case is a reminder that estate planning can include all types of items and not just real estate and monetary items. Items of sentimental value are important to include in estate planning as well. The King and Scott-King estates have had to deal with probate litigation and other legal issues over words on paper that they claim belonged to the estate.

Anyone who is planning their estate should consider all their possessions to determine if they need to be included in the estate. Working with someone familiar with Michigan estate planning can help ensure your estate plan is in order and make settling the estate easy for your heirs. No one wants to have their belongings tied up in probate court after their death.

Source: New York Daily News, "Harry Belafonte and estate of Martin Luther King Jr. reach deal declaring singer rightful owner of King’s documents" Dareh Gregorian, Apr. 11, 2014

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