The estate of civil rights icon Rosa Parks serves as a vivid example of the negative consequences of not creating a proper estate plan. Rosa Parks passed away in 2005 at the age of 92. Parks’ assets, which include a large collection of civil rights memorabilia as well as the rights to use her name and likeness, have been undergoing a 6-year battle in the probate courts.
Parks’ Will designated that the majority of her assets were to go to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. This charity was created in part by Parks and is operated by her long-time friend, co-executor and co-trustee, Elaine Steele.
The court battles first began when Parks’ nieces and nephews attempted to have the will invalidated. These relatives felt that Parks had been pressured by Steele into creating the documents in the first place, and that any designations could not be trusted. A legal battle ensued and multiple appeals were filed.
During this time, Steele and her attorney allegedly violated a confidentiality clause, causing the judge to attempt to remove them completely from the estate, thinking to give the estate to a similar charity as opposed to the one created by Rosa Parks herself.
The judge also transferred the responsibility of administering the assets to two court-appointed attorneys, which Steele immediately appealed. This ruling was revoked and the attorneys were to be removed as trustees, but continued on in that capacity non-the-less.
This case has since been appealed up to the Michigan Supreme Court which will now have the responsibility of sorting through the mess made by the original probate court. Hopefully the next several months will clear up many of the questions and appeals hanging over this high-profile case.
This tragic example serves as a vital reminder to protect your estate with a living trust in order to ensure your estate avoids probate and your assets go where you want them to. Don’t make your loved ones go through the mess that those in the Rosa Parks’ estate battle are going through. Contact MH today at 888.222.1328 to ensure your affairs are in order.
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