- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2009


Michael Jackson’s seven-year-old will was filed Wednesday in a Los Angeles court, giving his entire estate to a family trust, making his mother the guardian of his children and cutting out his former wife Debbie Rowe.

The will names his mother, Katherine Jackson, as a beneficiary of the trust and the guardian of Mr. Jackson’s children, who also are named as beneficiaries of the trust.

Court documents estimated the current value of his estate at more than $500 million.

The will also names entertainer Diana Ross as a successor guardian for the children and their estates if something happens to Katherine Jackson, 79. Miss Ross, 65, introduced the Jackson 5 on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in the late 1960s and was instrumental in launching their career. She was a lifelong friend of Mr. Jackson’s. He died at age 50 on June 25.

Mr. Jackson’s longtime lawyer John Branca and John McClain, a music executive and family friend, are named in the will as co-executors.

In a statement, Mr. Branca and Mr. McClain said: “The most important element of Michael’s will is his unwavering desire that his mother, Katherine, become the legal guardian for his three children. As we work to carry out Michael’s instructions to safeguard both the future of his children as well as the remarkable legacy he left us as an artist, we ask that all matters involving his estate be handled with the dignity and the respect that Michael and his family deserve.”

The executors moved quickly to take control of all of Mr. Jackson’s property, going to court Wednesday to challenge a previous ruling by a judge that gave Katherine Jackson control of 2,000 items from Neverland.

Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff said Mrs. Jackson will retain authority over the items until another hearing, set for Monday.

Judge Beckloff urged attorneys from both sides to try to reach a compromise soon.

“I would like the family to sit down [and] try to make this work [so] we don’t have a difficult time in court,” the judge said.

The will, dated July 7, 2002, gives the entire estate to the Michael Jackson Family Trust. Details of the trust will not be made public.

California’s attorney general, who oversees charitable donations from estates, is also named as a person who must be notified. It suggests some of the trust’s proceeds could go to charity, although which ones might benefit was not clear.

The documents say Mr. Jackson’s estate consisted almost entirely of “non-cash, non-liquid assets, including primarily an interest in a catalog of music royalty rights which is currently being administered by Sony ATV, and the interests of various entities.”

One of Mr. Jackson’s most lucrative assets is his stake in the massive Sony-ATV Music Publishing Catalog, which includes music by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Lady Gaga and the Jonas Brothers. It is estimated to be worth as much as $2 billion.

The five-page will is signed by Mr. Jackson, and each paragraph includes his scrawling initials.

On Monday, Katherine Jackson was granted temporary guardianship of Mr. Jackson’s three children - son Michael Joseph Jr., known as Prince Michael, 12; daughter Paris Michael Katherine, 11; and son Prince Michael II, 7.

Miss Rowe is the mother of the two older children; the youngest was born to a surrogate mother who has never been identified.

Miss Rowe, who was married to Mr. Jackson in 1996 and filed for divorce three years later, surrendered her parental rights. An appeals court later found that was done in error, and Miss Rowe and Mr. Jackson entered an out-of-court settlement in 2006.

Neither Miss Rowe nor her attorneys have indicated whether she intends to seek custody of the two children.

Meanwhile, a public memorial for Mr. Jackson is in the works but won’t be held at the late pop star’s Neverland Ranch, a Jackson family spokesman Ken Sunshine said Wednesday.

Authorities in Santa Barbara County had been preparing for tens of thousands of fans to descend on the 2,500-acre ranch - about 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles - after media reports said a public viewing would take place later this week.

Once a symbol of Mr. Jackson’s success and excesses, Neverland - nestled in the hills of Santa Barbara County’s wine country - became the site of a makeshift memorial after his death.

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