MONROEVILLE, Ala. — The will of “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee has been made public following a lawsuit by The New York Times, but details on her estate remain a secret.
The move came as Emory University in Atlanta said separately it had acquired a collection of personal correspondence and memorabilia of Lee, who won the Pulitzer Prize for “Mockingbird” in 1961. The book, a fictional story about racial injustice in a little Alabama town, went on to sell more than 40 million copies. The Times reports that Harper’s will, unsealed Tuesday, shows that most of her assets were transferred into a trust days before her death in 2016 in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala. She was 89 when she died in her sleep at an assisted living facility.
But the contents of her estate remain private because trust documents are private.
A probate court sealed the will of the famously private writer following her death, and the newspaper filed suit the same year to have the document made public. The suit argued that Lee’s desire for privacy wasn’t sufficient legal reason to keep her will hidden from public view.
Records show the estate recently dropped its opposition to unsealing the will.
The letters acquired by Emory, written over a five-year period ending in 1961, are from Lee to New York architect Harold Caufield and his friends, who included Michael and Joy Brown. The Browns assisted Lee for a year while she wrote “Go Set a Watchman,” a precursor to “To Kill a Mockingbird” that wasn’t published until 2015. The university said it acquired the letters from Paul R. Kennerson, a retired attorney from La Jolla, Calif. They will become available to the public in April.
According to a statement issued by Emory, Kennerson approached the university about becoming the permanent home of the archive after meeting and speaking with Emory historian Joseph Crespino.
Crespino had contacted Kennerson while researching his forthcoming book, “Atticus Finch: The Biography.” The book, which will be available May 8, is a political and cultural history of Lee’s most famous character and how his creation was inspired by Lee’s father, Amasa Coleman Lee, who practiced law, served in the Alabama State Legislature and was owner and editor of the Monroe Journal.