On May 27, 2015, Reuters reported that a Georgia judge had appointed 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 this Bible during the historic marches and rallies of the ’60’s, and President Obama took the oath of office on it 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 places than courtrooms to resolve conflicts.

The Benefits of Good Planning

Putting time and effort into devising a plan with enough details to make it work effectively will pay enormous dividends for your loved ones. Putting the right managers in place, and making your wishes very clear will help your family to focus on honoring your memory and moving on with their lives. In order to work, an estate plan needs to be reviewed and updated from time to time. Things change constantly and sometimes rapidly (the law, your finances, your family, your list of trusted advisors; failing to make necessary adjustments will cause your plan to fall short.

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 satisfy their shared goals and values. If you know that your loved ones are at odds, you might engage a skilled mediator now, to assure that the eventual settling of your estate will be done peaceably later on. If you find yourself in conflict after a loved one or family member dies, propose that your differences be mediated privately rather than hashed out in open court. Mediation saves time and money; sometimes it opens the door to heal relationships.

Even if you don’t have a Nobel medal or a historic Bible, you can give your loved ones alternatives to shooting it out in court over “who gets what” or which heirloom gets 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
808-587-8227| maku@est8planning.com