August 2008 Archives

August 3, 2008

Organ Donation: An Incredible Gift

Here's something to think about when you're planning your estate: More than 90,000 Americans are currently on national transplant lists, waiting for organs that will save their lives. One-third of them will die before getting what they need. You can help by becoming an organ, eye or tissue donor. It will make a real difference. One donor can benefit as many as eight other people. Consider these statistics:

  • Every 12 minutes, another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.
  • In 2005, there were 7,593 deceased organ donors and 6,895 living organ donors, resulting in 28,108 organ transplants.
  • 90% of Americans say they support donation, but only 30% know the essential steps to take to be a donor.

State laws differ on exactly what you need to do to make an organ donation as part of your estate plan. Many allow you to register in an online donor registry, or when you renew your drivers license or state ID card. To find out the requirements in your state, go to

To learn more about organ donation, see Nolo's article The Organ Donor: A Guide.

August 1, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Children Fighting In Court: Siblings Not Communicating About Estate

It can happen in any family, even famous ones: One sibling ends up administering the family estate and before long, the other siblings feel shut-out, suspicious, or just mad. They ask for information about how the assets are being managed or distributed and don't get answers. Since no one knows how the money's been invested or spent, everyone assumes the worst. Pretty soon, no one is talking to each other, only to attorneys. Then the lawsuits get filed.

A recent AP story reports that two of Martin Luther King's children, Bernice and Martin Luther King Jr. III, have filed a lawsuit against the third, Dexter King, who is the administrator of his father's estate. They claim that he has failed to provide them with essential documents, including financial records and contracts.

If you are serving as a trustee or executor of your parent's estate, or, if you know that you have been named to serve by your parents, but your siblings have not, take note of this classic family feud. Make sure that you understand what your duties are, be careful not to use any estate money for your own use, and, above all, keep really good records of what you've spent and how you've spent it.

When your siblings ask you for accounting information, provide it. In this case, silence is not golden.


For a comprehensive guide to settling a trust or estate, see The Executor's Guide: Settling a Loved One's Estate or Trust, by Mary Randolph (Nolo).