In May of last year, Reuters reported that a Georgia judge had agreed to appoint a mediator to help the family of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. decide whether to sell Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize and his personal Bible.
Dr. King carried the Bible during the historic marches and rallies of the 1960s, and President Barack Obama placed his hand on it when he took the oath of office at his second inauguration.
According to the article, the “fight pits the slain civil rights leader’s sons — Martin Luther King III and Dexter King, who want to sell the medal and Bible — against King’s surviving daughter, Bernice King, who opposes the sale of items she calls ‘sacred’ to the family.”
This family drama illustrates two important principles. The first is that a well-thought-out and thoroughly implemented estate plan will give your family priceless guidance.
The second principle is that there are better ways to resolve conflict than in the courtroom.
The Benefits of Good Planning
Putting the time and effort into devising a plan and taking care of all of the details that will make it work effectively will pay enormous dividends.
You may not see the benefits during your lifetime, but your loved ones certainly will.
Putting the right managers in place and taking the guesswork out of determining your wishes will enable your family to focus on honoring your memory and moving on with their lives.
And remember that your estate plan needs to be reviewed and updated from time to time if you want it to be effective.
Conditions change constantly and sometimes rapidly, and failing to make necessary adjust-ments will cause your plan to fall short and diminish the effectiveness of your legacy.
Mediate Rather Than Litigate
Mediation is a way of getting disagreeing parties together, helping to find their common ground, and then working toward solutions that may not make everybody happy, but that will help satisfy their shared goals and values.
If you know that your loved ones are at odds, you can engage a skilled mediator during your lifetime to assure that the eventual settling of your estate will be done peaceably.
If you find yourself in conflict after the death of a loved one or family member, one of the best things you can do is propose that your differences be mediated privately rather than battled out in open court.
Mediation will save time and money in the long run. You may also find that it can open the doors to healing broken relationships.
Even if you don’t have a Nobel Medal or a historic Bible among your personal effects, you can appreciate the value of not having your loved ones hash it out in court over “who gets what” or whether a prized heirloom should be sold.
You may not be able to make everybody happy with your estate plan or with the assistance of mediation, but you can head off or minimize problems that may tear your family apart and tarnish your legacy.
SCOTT MAKUAKANE, Counselor at Law
Focusing exclusively on estate planning and trust law.
Watch Scott’s TV show, Malama Kupuna
Sundays at 8:30 pm on KWHE, Oceanic Channel 11
O‘ahu: 808-587-8227 | firstname.lastname@example.org