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Probate court issues in Rosa Parks estate administration case

Many families in Oklahoma have legacies they want to protect. From entire large estates to single mementos of ancestry, there are objects and property that you want to pass to heirs who will appreciate the significance of them and safeguard family heritage. Estate administration is one way to handle such transfers, but it's important to ensure your stated wishes match legal documents so your heirs can avoid expensive, drawn-out probate issues.

In another state, the family and friends of civil-rights hero Rosa Parks are mired in a probate battle over Parks' estate. Some believe the items of her estate could be worth millions. A new Smithsonian museum dedicated to African-American history is looking for items for exhibits, and the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement has sparked increased interest from collectors.

Years after Parks' death, her family and friends are still arguing over how to handle some aspects of her estate. According to reports, the court battle led to the removal of memorabilia from the Parks home. Those items are being stored in a warehouse until a high bidder appears to claim them. As of now, no high bidder has been found and the Parks estate remains in custody where no one can see it.

Friends of Parks say that her wishes were made clear. They say she wanted her estate to be viewed by the public. One attorney said that the heirs would be able to reach agreements about the artifacts -- including sending them to an appropriate museum or other institution -- but probate issues are holding up the matter. He accused the probate court of trying to control the transactions. In her will, Parks bequeathed many of her papers and other items to an institute named after her, but some of her heirs challenged the will. A judge reportedly ordered the entire collection to be sold as a single body, which could be holding up the process.

Probate court can be a sticky legal situation for any family. Planning ahead and solid communication can solve some issues, but it's important to understand legal rights when probate court becomes an unavoidable requirement.

Source: News 9, "Rosa Parks archives remain unsold in warehouse" Jesse J. Holland, Apr. 10, 2014

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