With this year being the celebration of the 50th anniversaries of several events in the civil rights era, the state of Rosa Parks’ personal affects is making the news. The belonging are still in flux, largely due to the probate court, according to one of the lawyers in the case. The belongings, including pictures with Parks and U.S. presidents, a signed postcard from Martin Luther King, Jr. and many documents important to the civil rights era, are currently being stored in a warehouse in New York.
The dispute over the items reportedly began after Parks died at the age of 92 in 2005. Her will stated that her belongings should go to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. However, her heirs, including nieces and nephews, challenged the will. The items were seized by the court and ordered to be auctioned off in one sale.
Guernsey’s Auctioneers has had the belongings since 2006, and the price is currently somewhere between $8 million to $10 million. Many, including the associate director of Curatorial Affairs at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, believe that the items should be put on display at a museum or similar institution so they can be viewed and enjoyed by the public.
One of the lawyers involved in the case said that the Parks’ nieces and nephews and the institute would be able to agree on what to do with the items if the estate could get out of probate. He hopes that the case can be resolved in the next year.
Probate litigation can certainly be more intense when the assets involved include items of historical significance. However, any estate can get tied up in the probate courts when a will is challenged or the heirs fight over assets. In these types of situations, a probate and estate administration lawyer can work to help those involved navigate the probate courts and get the best outcome possible.
Source: Times Free Press, “Rosa Parks archives remain unsold in warehouse” No author given, Apr. 14, 2014