We are working remotely and all of us continue to be available by telephone or email. In alignment with national, state and local initiatives as it relates to the coronavirus, we remain open for business and have changed the way we are working for the health and well-being of our employees, and you, our valued clients and colleagues. Read more

Mason & Helmers
We Welcome Your Call
  • Phone 651-323-2548
  • Toll Free 877-389-5533

Sibling rivalry dispute in MLK bible case finally settles

Disputes among siblings are common, thus the term sibling rivalry. But what happens when the children grow up and that rivalry continues. The children may have the difficult task of working together in settling their parents' estate. Disagreements among the adult children can drag settlement of the affairs on for years and create bitter, costly court battles. The MLK case is one such example.

Two valuable items disputed

Martin Luther King, Jr., (MLK) was assassinated in 1968. His widow died in 2006. The eldest King child died in 2007. After that, a dispute among the three remaining King children arose. The dispute was over two valuable items: MLK's traveling Bible, which was used during President Barack Obama's 2013 inauguration, and the Nobel Peace Prize MLK won in 1964 during the civil rights movement. Some reports say the items could sell for around $10 million for the Bible and $1 million for King's Nobel Peace Prize. Private papers and a book collection of MLK's previously sold for $32 million to King's alma mater, Morehouse College, back in 2006.

In January of 2014, the two brothers, Dexter Scott King and Martin Luther King III, the eldest sibling, outvoted their sister, Reverend Bernice King, in favor of selling the estate items. The case went into litigation, but then went to mediation before the trial date. The mediator was former President Jimmy Carter.

The latest decision

An Associated Press article from August 15, 2016, explained the latest decision in the case. From Atlanta, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ruled that the Bible belonged to the MLK estate and must be returned to the eldest brother who oversees the estate. However, the fate of the Nobel Peace Prize remains undecided.

This lawsuit was the fifth such dispute among the heirs to the MLK estate in the last ten years. At its core, this is a property ownership dispute. The owner of the items gets to decide what happens to them, if they will be sold or not. Property disputes are common in settling estates. However, not all property disputes go to trial. Most are also not this public, unless they involve public figures, such as MLK, or entertainers, such as Michael Jackson or Prince. Many disputes can be settled among the family members or mediated before going to trial.

When disputes among siblings surface, an estate and trust litigation attorney can help you work through the dispute. Contact a qualified attorney to represent your interests or mediate the dispute, so you and your siblings can finalize matters and move on after your loss. 

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

For Assistance with Estate Disputes & Other Matters, Contact Us

To learn more about the firm and how we can assist you,
contact Mason & Helmers in St. Paul, Minnesota. Call 651-323-2548 or 877-389-5533 (toll free) to set up an appointment.

*AV®, AV Preeminent®, Martindale-Hubbell Distinguished and Martindale-Hubbell Notable are certification marks used under license in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell® is the facilitator of a peer review
rating process. Ratings reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ fall into two categories — legal ability and general ethical standards.

Contact Our Attorneys

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Email Us For A Response
Mason & Helmers

Mason & Helmers
332 Minnesota Street
Suite W-3070
St. Paul, MN 55101

Toll Free: 877-389-5533
Phone: 651-323-2548
St. Paul Law Office Map