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Early estate planning can help avoid probate litigation

Rosa Parks is known as one of the famous civil rights activists in America History, but this civil rights icon's estate has been mired in conflict and litigation. Rosa Park's estate plan provided that her possessions would go to a charitable institute dedicated to the education of black youth and community betterment. Unfortunately the charitable work of the estate and its trust were hindered by unnecessary litigation.

The administrators of the estate were one of Rosa Parks close friends, Elaine Steele, and a retired Detroit judge. Steele was also set to benefit from 90 percent of the royalties of the estate, with only 10 percent passing to Parks' nieces and nephews.

The nieces and nephews were unhappy with this arrangement and challenged Parks' final will and trust in court. They accused Steele of undue influence and Steele was removed as the appointed executor after allegations of estate mismanagement arose.

A court battle ensued and Steele was reinstated as administrator but then removed again. The nieces and nephews were also given a greater share of the royalties from the estate. The case ultimately ended up before the Michigan Supreme Court which reinstated Parks' original will.

This litigation is a lesson for any Houston residents who think that they can put off creating their wills and trusts until they are at an advanced age. Proper estate planning should be done early so allegations of undue influence and mental incompetency cannot so easily be waged. Rosa Parks waited until she was in her mid-80's to create her trust and her procrastination may be part of the reason that this costly seven year court drama began.

Source: Forbes, "Rosa Parks' Final Wishes, Ignored for Years, Are Finally Restored," Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Jan. 6, 2012

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