Tag: the family war
Last week, the family of Martin Luther King Jr. settled a dispute surrounding two cherished family artifacts: the late reverend’s personal travelling bible and 1964 Nobel Peace Prize medal. King’s three surviving children—Martin, Dexter, and Bernice—disagreed about whether or not to sell these treasured items. The two brothers, who wanted to sell to a private buyer, outvoted their sister, who had possession of the items and wished to keep them in the family. Former President Jimmy Carter acted as the mediator in the case.
Sadly, this kind of case is far too common. We have written about such “family wars” several times. Of course, no two family disputes will be exactly the same; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Individual personalities and family dynamics as well as the significance of the issues in dispute make each family dispute different. The facts in this case are unusual because of the particular items in dispute. This family bible is significant not only to the family, but also to American history. The bible at issue was used by President Barack Obama during his inauguration in 2013. As well, not every family will have a former U.S. President act as mediator.
On the other hand, the themes represented in this case often arise in family disputes, no matter how celebrated or obscure the family. Here, the brothers desired to sell because the Estate needed the money. Bernice, however, could not conceive of selling her father’s cherished possessions. Conflict between sentimentality and more material considerations often fuel estate disputes.
As we have discussed before, it important for a lawyer to recognize the role of passion and sentimentality in estates disputes. Feelings should not be the sole driving force in litigation. As well, communication is the most effective tool to avoid estate litigation. Testators should speak to their families, particularly their children, about their wishes and the terms of their will, to avoid surprises and hurt feelings.
Thank you for reading.
Listen to Deductions from Compensation.
This week on Hull on Estates and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana finish up the discussion on the question of accounting by reviewing deductions from compensation and briefly sum up the procedure of the passing of accounts.
Listen to Strategies to Prevent Estate Litigation
This week on Hull on Estates, Natalia Angelini and Rick Bickhram discuss tools and strategies to prevent estate litigation.
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At Wednesday’s year end dinner for the Ontario Bar Association Trusts and Estates section, we saw the presentation of the Hoffstein Book Prize.
This annual prize was established by Elena Hoffstein upon her receipt of the 2006 Award of Excellence in Trusts and Estates Law. The intention of the prize is to recognize outstanding contributions to the trusts and estates bar by a younger practitioner.
(Contrary to popular belief, the Hoffstein Book Prize is not a prize for writing a book: the prize IS a book.)
This year’s recipient of the Hoffstein book prize in was Jordan Atin, who in fact DID write a book. He is a co-author of The Family War. He is also a frequent speaker at CLE programs, writes extensively, is a contributor to the text Estate Litigation, and is involved in the OBA. Next year, Jordan is the Chair of the Trusts and Estates Section.
Jordan is Senior Associate Counsel at Hull and Hull. It is a privilege to work with him. He is a remarkable resource, and a wonderful person.