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Michael Jackson estate update: one fight down, one heats up

On Michael Jackson overload yet?  If not, start here with my summary of what's transpired with the Michael Jackson estate so far.  And here are the latest updates:Michael-Jackson-002-M

First, earlier this week, Michael's mother, Katherine, and her lawyers were in court asking the judge for permission to review key documents relating to the estate, including the contract between Jackson and the concert promoter for his recent planned tour. 

The judge previously followed Jackson's's will -- at least on a temporary basis -- and denied Katherine's permission to serve as estate executor.  He allowed an attorney and music executive to serve in that capacity until a court hearing scheduled for August 3, to decide who would be the permanent executors.

At the time of that prior court hearing, the judge said Katherine would be allowed input, to a limited extent, into important decisions.  This time, however, California Superior Court Judge Michael Beckloff ruled that she wasn't entitled to see the documents her probate attorney requested, instead ruling he would take the issue up at the next court hearing.  He denied the argument they were important for her to see ahead of time so her lawyers could prepare for the August 3rd hearing.

This ruling doesn't bode well for her.  It suggests that the judge is likely going to follow the will (as probate judges usually do) and allow John McClain and John Branca to serve as the co-executors instead of Katherine, on a more permanent basis.  Otherwise, he would been quicker to grant her request considering he previously ruled she was to be kept in the loop on important business decisions.

We'll find out for certain in a few days.  Either way, it definitely looks like this is shaping up for a long court battle.  In fact, the lawyer for the two estate executors said that's what he thinks the Katherine Jackson legal team is gearing up for.

Here's the L.A. Times article about the story if you want to read more. 

Meanwhile, Katherine's other legal battle is going better for her.  In fact, it's done with.  She was previously awarded temporary custody -- as guardian -- for Michael's three children.  Michael's ex-wife and biological mother to two of the three kids was reportedly set to challenge her for that, until today.  Attorneys for Deborah Rowe and Katherine Jackson reached a settlement.

They announced publicly today that they agreed Katherine would remain as guardian, and Rowe would have visitation rights, supervised by a psychologist.  No money changed hands in the deal -- throwing water on the speculation of many that Rowe was out for another payday (she was previously paid by Jackson to give up rights to the kids, reportedly).  You can read about the settlement here

One out of two isn't bad for Katherine.  Let's see if she makes it two out of two.

In the meantime, everyone is focusing on the possible manslaughter charges against Michael Jackson's doctor for allegedly prescribing him a strong anesthesia medicine that is usually reserved only for surgeries.  The police used search warrants to grab records for this criminal investigation, seemingly because it was this drug that caused or contributed to Michael Jackson's death.

Regardless of whether charges are brought, one thing is for sure -- watch for the estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Dr. Conrad Murray.  If successful, that claim will potentially be worth millions for Jackson's children and other family members. 

Oh and one more twist to keep an eye on.  Joe Jackson -- Michael's estranged father -- said today that he has been aware for quite some time that Michael had a secret love child.  If true, that's yet another person who may launch a legal battle against the Estate of Michael Jackson.

All this fighting and legal maneuvering.  It just goes to show you how important estate planning is.  It's far better to hire a good lawyer to do the proper planning ahead of time, rather than increasing the risk of your family needing to hire an experienced probate litigation attorney after you pass. 

Posted by:  Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law.  You can email him at awmayoras @

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