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Dispute over Rosa Parks estate in Michigan continues

A battle over the estate of Rosa Parks has made for big news in the world of estate planning. Civil rights legend and pioneer, Rosa Parks died six years ago, but the battle over her $8 million estate continues to this day. Late last year, this blog discussed the Michigan Supreme Court's decision to overturn an earlier ruling regarding the Parks estate. But now, the Michigan Supreme Court has released the details of a confidential settlement reached between the battling parties in 2007.

The secret agreement -- between Parks' 15 nieces and nephews and Elaine Steele, Parks' longtime friend and caregiver and an official of the institute Parks and Steele founded -- was designed so that the parties could avoid probate court. The agreement spells out how the estate will be divided between the parties and was intended to remain confidential. In fact, one of the provisions of the agreement was that all parties must not reveal the contents of the agreement or else risk losing their share of the estate.

However, the agreement was disclosed by the Michigan Supreme Court after the document was attached to a brief that was sent to the high court. Since confidentiality breaches have been an ongoing theme in the conflict over the Parks estate, it will be interesting to see how this latest development impacts the final resolution of the dispute.

Estate battles are often intense, especially when the estates are as large and have as much historical significance as Parks'. Working with an experienced estate and probate attorney may help other Michigan residents avoid a similar legal dispute, as well as protect loved ones from going through such a contentious battle in the future. In addition to drafting wills and trusts, an attorney can help Michigan residents draft health care directives, powers of attorney and other important estate planning documents that will clarify the wishes of estate holders.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "The secrets are out on deal to settle suit over Rosa Parks estate," David Ashenfelter, Feb. 5, 2012

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