x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Michael Jackson's will leaves estate in trust for his family

The will gives his entire estate to a family trust and names his mother as a beneficiary of the trust and the guardian of his three children.

LOS ANGELES // Michael Jackson's seven-year-old will was filed yesterday in a Los Angeles court, giving his entire estate to a family trust and naming his mother as a beneficiary of the trust and the guardian of his three children. The will names the singer Diana Ross as a successor guardian to 79-year-old Katherine Jackson if necessary. Dated July 7 2002, the will estimated his estate at that time at more than $500 million (Dh1.8 billion). It gives the entire estate to the Michael Jackson Family Trust.

His former wife Debbie Rowe is cut out of the will. The documents said Jackson's estate consisted almost entirely of "non-cash, non-liquid assets, including primarily an interest in a catalogue of music royalty rights which is currently being administered by Sony ATV, and the interests of various entities". It also names Jackson's long-time lawyer, John Branca, and John McClain, a music executive and a family friend, as co-executors of the will.

Jackson, who died last week at 50, left behind three children: son Michael Joseph Jr, known as Prince Michael, 12; daughter Paris Michael Katherine, 11; and son Prince Michael II, 7. Rowe was the mother of the two oldest children; the youngest was born to a surrogate mother, who has never been identified. The children are named in the will. 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."

Katherine Jackson was granted temporary guardianship on Monday of Jackson's three children. A judge held off on requests to control the children's estates, and gave her limited control over her son's troubled, but lucrative finances. Ms Rowe, who was married to 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 Ms Rowe and Jackson entered an out-of-court settlement in 2006.

Neither Ms Rowe nor her lawyers have indicated whether she intends to seek custody of the two oldest children. Meanwhile, an effort to bury Jackson at Neverland Ranch fizzled and it appears more likely a funeral and burial will take place in Los Angeles, a person familiar with the situation said yesterday. Authorities in Santa Barbara County had been preparing for tens of thousands of fans to descend on the 1,000-hectare ranch after media reports that a public viewing would take place later this week.

But the person, who is not authorised to speak for the family and requested anonymity, said nothing is planned for Neverland at least through tomorrow. The person said it appears more likely a funeral and burial will take place in Los Angeles. The family has the final say. A private memorial service for family and friends could take place at the ranch, most likely after the funeral. The person said billionaire Thomas Barrack, who owns Neverland in a joint venture with Jackson, sought an exemption to bury the singer at the ranch.

But the source said it was a complicated process and it could not be done for a burial this week. "The family is aware a Neverland burial is not possible. They are expected to make decisions about whatever funeral and memorial service" will take place, the person said. Heavy construction equipment and workers were seen passing through the wrought-iron gates of Neverland on Tuesday. The property is about 195 kilometres north-west of Los Angeles. At once a symbol of Jackson's success and excesses, the estate nestled in the hills of Santa Barbara County's wine country became the site of a makeshift memorial after his death.

* Associated Press