MLK - I Have a Dream

Most family members who have disagreements over valued items that belonged to a loved one are fighting over antiques, heirloom jewelry or perhaps a beloved vacation home -- not a Nobel Peace Prize. Rarely, if ever, are these estate disputes settled with the help of a former president. However, we're talking about the children of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The civil rights icon had no will when he was assassinated in 1968 at just 39 years old by a white supremacist. His three surviving children, however, are on the board of a corporation formed to manage their father's estate. Martin Luther King III is the chairman of that board.

Dispute Involved Nobel Peace Prize and Historic Bible

The three surviving children have been in a dispute for more than two years over what should be done with the Nobel Peace Prize their father received in 1964. His two sons, Dexter King and Martin Luther King III, want to sell the medal along with the Bible Dr. King was often seen holding. It's the same Bible President Obama used when he was sworn in for his second term. Their sister Bernice King, however, has objected to the sale of those items, calling them "sacred" family heirlooms.

Now the siblings have agreed to end their legal battle. This month, they dismissed a pending lawsuit over the items, which have been held in a safe deposit box controlled by the court during the dispute.

President Carter Helped Mediate Agreement

The agreement reached by the siblings is confidential. Even the judge in the case said that he didn't know what it entailed. However, it sounds as though these valued, historic items may be sold, based on a statement released by President Jimmy Carter, whom the family credits with helping them work out the matter outside of court. Carter, of course, is known for his negotiation skills with world leaders. He noted, "I am glad that the parties resolved the issues in the interest of the greater good and their parents' legacy."

While most disputes among heirs or beneficiaries aren't likely to make international headlines, it's still generally preferable for everyone if they can be resolved without having to go to court. Nonetheless, sometimes it's necessary for one or more heirs to take legal action, particularly if there was no will, in order to seek a fair resolution.