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Rosa Parks' probate assets tied-up in probate litigation

As most Floridians may know, Rosa Parks was a figure of stature during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Her defiant stand against segregation in public transportation helped spark the beginning of the end of the Jim Crow Era. Unfortunately, her legacy is now partially in the hands of a probate judge as her heirs are in litigation over the distribution of some of her effects.

According to a friend of Ms. Parks, who heads a foundation that was co-founded by and bears the name of the civil rights hero, the will in question bequeaths all of an archive of Parks' memorabilia to the foundation. However, the woman's nieces and nephews have challenged the will, and a probate judge has ordered the entire collection to be sold. A lawyer for the foundation believes an agreement can be reached regarding the effects going to a worthy institution, but the probate process has gotten in the way. The collection is being held by an auction house waiting for someone to meet the asking price, which is, according to reports, between $8 million and $10 million. Ms. Parks died in 2005.

It is unfortunate that such disputes sometimes arise, but they do, and not only in connection with the wealthy and famous. Anyone can have their probate assets frozen while a court determines what will become of them. Such a process can add enormous stress and expense to an already difficult process through which the loved ones of the deceased have to go.

Luckily, there may be ways that individuals can avoid these situations. Through careful estate planning and the use of instruments, such as trusts, people can help ensure that their estates are not caught in probate court limbo. Every case is different. Nonetheless, it may be wise for Florida residents wishing to avoid such problems to consult with a professional with experience in the estate planning field.

Source: South Florida Times, "Rosa Parks memorabilia remain in limbo at warehouse," Jesse L. Holland, April 17, 2014

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