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Michael Jackson's Will Released, but Who Wrote It?

Last week, I wrote about some of the potential medical malpractice issues that Michael Jackson's death might raise. This week, the legal issues associated with Jackson's recently released will are driving the discussion.

The New York Times summarizes the provisions of Jackson's five-page will, dated July 7, 2002. The document gives the estate to the Michael Jackson Family Trust Fund and names his mother, Katherine Jackson, as legal guardian of his children, with Diana Ross serving as backup if Jackson's mother predeceased him.

Though Jackson provided for his children, he also stated that he “intentionally omitted to provide for” Deborah Jean Rowe Jackson, the mother of his two oldest children. The will also granted John Branca, an entertainment lawyer, and John McClain, a music executive and longtime friend, full power over Jackson's financial matters.

So what are some of the potential will disputes so far? For starters, Jackson's mother originally stated that Jackson died without a will, so the NYT predicts that there may be a subsequent proceeding to determine whether Jackson revoked the 2002 document. In addition, other wills are likely to materialize in the coming weeks. There's also a dispute brewing over whether Jackson's mother or McClain and Branca ought to have any control over, or rights to, memorabilia.

At least one law blogger, Candice Aiston of the Oregon Estate Planning Blog, expresses relief that Jackson's will provides for his children. She notes that there is a will and it names guardians and pours everything into a trust for the children. David Shulman of South Florida Estate Planning Law blog concurs, writing that:

I’m actually impressed.  It seems that as irresponsible of a person as he was, he might have actually done this correctly. CF Anna Nicole Smith.

Shulman discusses other aspects of the will in this post. He notes that Branca, McClain and Barry Seigel will serve as co-trustees of the Michael Jackson Family trust and co-executors of the will. Shulman explains that this means:

[T]hey will be able to more easily manage the transfer of the assets not already in the trust to the trust. Not to mention that there are fees that they can be paid for serving as both co-executor and co-trustees. While these fees are not normally that large, in an estate of this magnitude and complexity they could certainly go into the millions of dollars.

Of course there's one piece of information that hasn't yet been discussed: Which attorney (or law firm) drafted Jackson's will?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 2, 2009 at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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