Probate Lawyer Blog: There is no doubt about the greatness of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, his estate planning wasn’t so great. In fact, King made a mistake that too many people make everyday in our country … he procrastinated with his legal planning and died without a will.
In large part because of this, his legacy has been marred by fighting among his children over the handling of his estate, including claims of secrecy, mismanagement and misappropriating assets. Years ago, MLK’s heirs formed a corporation to manage King’s estate, but then they fought over control over the corporation. You can read Trial & Heirs’ coverage of the lawsuit between the King children here. Luckily, the heirs were able to reach a settlement and ended that round of fighting.
But, that doesn’t mean the court battles have ended. The corporation which operates the estate turned its attention to a television anchor in Southern Mississippi, named Howard Nelson Ballou. The Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc., sued Ballou and claimed he has possession of historic documents relating to King.
These include handwritten letters from King, transcripts of speeches he delivered, statements and newsletters he authored, a handwritten letter by Rosa Parks, and similar writings of great importance to King’s efforts in the 1950′s civil rights movement.
Ballou’s parents had been close friends with King and his wife, Coretta Scott King. Ballou’s father was King’s fraternity brother, and his mother had been King’s personal secretary in the 1950′s. She helped him research, type and edit his speeches, answered his mail and made his travel arrangements. She says that, through her relationship with King, he gave her the documents.
Ballou’s mother, Maude Williams Ballou, now 86 years old, recently said in a sworn statement that King wanted her to keep the documents by giving them to her at different times, and telling her, “