With all the wall-to-wall coverage of Michael Jackson's death, estate and guardianship questions involving his children, it should be no surprise that Michael Jackson's Will was made available for all to see through the internet within hours of it being filed today with a Los Angeles Probate Court.
Shocked that such an important and personal document is available for public reading? Don't be. That's the nature of wills -- they are public documents (once you die). Any will admitted to probate court is a public record that anyone can read.
So what do you do if you don't want your estate planning wishes to be read by, well, everyone? You do what Michael Jackson did and create a revocable living trust.
As you can see from the will, the King of Pop created the Michael Jackson Family Trust, which he had completely amended and re-written on March 22, 2002. He signed the will itself on July 7, 2002.
So who gets his property under his trust? We don't know (at least not yet). Clearly, his three children are prominent beneficiaries.
So what do we know from the will? First, he did not want his ex-wife, Deborah Rowe to receive anything (no surprise there).
Second, he named his mother to act as guardian for his children and their estates (meaning manage their money) if he died while they were minors. This will serve Katherine Jackson well in the upcoming guardianship fight, which I discussed in this prior article about the turmoil in Michael Jackson's Estate.
Third, and most interesting of all, the secondary guardian if Katherine can't serve in that role, is none other than Diana Ross.
Finally, we know that he named three people to act as co-executors for the estate: John Branca, John McClain, and Barry Siegel.
A word of caution -- don't be surprised if another will (or two) surfaces after this July, 2002 will. Only the last will counts; until this will is admitted into probate, we don't know for sure if it is the operative will.
We also don't yet know what assets and debts face the estate. As I mentioned in my prior post, it may be years before they are all sorted out. Published reports suggest that the Estate had no cash or liquid assets (meaning no money), but did have business interests that may be worth billions, including his share of the Sony ATV music catalog, which owns rights to music by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and even the legendary Jonas Brothers.
But he also reportedly owes Sony so much money that others have suggested he may forfeit his interests to Sony as collateral for unpaid loans. Stay tuned for all the excitement.
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 @ brmmlaw.com.Follow us on Google+