Bernice King, daughter of the heralded Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is pleading with her brothers not to sell their father’s personal effects. Bernice, who lives in Florida’s neighboring state of Georgia, retains possession of her father’s Nobel Peace Prize and his personal Bible.Estate planning documents transferred King’s estate into the hands of his two sons, however, and they are permitted to make final decisions about the sale of the objects.

Attorneys for the estate sought a judicial order forcing the woman to surrender the two items. The estate has been negotiating with outside parties that are considering leasing the items or even purchasing them outright. However, Bernice said that such an action would be a travesty against her father’s legacy.

A judge in the case has decided that the items will not yet be turned over to the two brothers. Instead, they will be placed in a safe deposit box under the name of the estate. The court will retain the keys for that box.

Even though advocates have urged the woman to refuse to hand over the two objects — thus condemning her to jail time — Bernice said that decision is not the best course of action. She said she will honor the wishes of the judge, though placing the items in government control causes her some personal grief. Bernice, a minister herself, said she considers those objects to be sacred, and she believes they should not be put up for sale.

Although King’s estate is currently managed by his two sons, certain items of property are still being contested. Estate planning professionals may be able to help Florida residents draft appropriate documents to prevent such disagreements among beneficiaries and heirs. Clients who want to know more about this type of estate planning may benefit from the advice of a Florida probate attorney.

Luis E. Barreto