Westchester attorney clarifies Michael Jackson’s will versus the privacy of a trust

TMZ.com, the inside source on all things Michael Jackson, is now reporting that Jackson’s will has been filed in L.A. County Surrogates Court.  The document names the singer’s mother, Katherine, as guardian for all three of his children and singer Diana Ross is listed as a substitute guardian.  Now, as Lady Litigator first mentioned on Monday, Jackson, as any other testator, can only suggest his choice of a guardian to the court.  The language is considered to be precatory and not mandatory; therefore, the court will take Jackson’s final wish under consideration but will ultimately determine the best interests of the children when determining guardianship.

Granitz/Wire Image   Courtesy:  NY DailyNews

Granitz/Wire Image Courtesy: NY DailyNews

A petition filed along with the will lists the value of Jackson’s estate at half  a billion dollars, mostly consisting 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 interests in various entities.”  The entire fortune is left to the Michael Jackson Family Trust.

When a testator sets up a trust prior to death, it is unlikely those documents will ever be made public, which is just one reason that people with a high net worth establish trusts in the first place.   A Revocable Living Trust,  set up before Jackson died, would have given him complete control of his assets during his life and maintained privacy for the beneficiaries after his passing.  Further, even though Jackson was reportedly in debt up to his proverbial eyeballs, his estate is likely to be generating money for years to come in music and video royalties and the licensing of his image.  Unfortunately this is only the beginning of this saga and it is doubtful the media will relinquish Jackson’s control of the headlines any time soon.