Our Blog

What Can Be Learned From Michael Jackson’s Death?

When pop icon Michael Jackson died last week, many issues were raised regarding his estate and his will.

Who will be inheriting the estate?

Who are the beneficiaries?

Who will serve as the legal guardian for his children?

Jackson’s will which is dated July 7, 2002, estimate that his estate at the time was worth more than $500 million. Jackson’s will states that the entire estate will go to the Michael Jackson Family Trust. It also states that his mother, Katherine Jackson, is a beneficiary of the trust and the guardian of his children. Interestingly, it names Diana Ross as a successor guardian in case something were to happen to Katherine Jackson or if Mrs. Jackson cannot assume guardianship.

With Jackson’s prominence in American culture, and all the money he is worth, one would question why others will not be benefiting from Jackson’s untimely death. In an effort to solve this quandary, one should familiarize his or herself with some basic knowledge on wills.

When creating a valid will, the person making the will must be at least 18 years old. Additionally, the will must be in writing signed by the person who is creating the will. Two witnesses who are not going to inherit anything from the will must be present at the time of the signing.

When drafting a will, the person making the will decisions’ include: Who inherits your estate. That is, who inherits what you own (beneficiaries). Who will become the guardian of your children? Who will be entrusted with making sure your wishes are kept (executors).

A will can be deemed invalid if the person making the will was under pressure from other people when he or she was making the will. The person creating the will must also understand what they are doing, meaning they are fully aware of to whom their possessions are going to and what they are leaving behind. A sound-mind is needed by the signer at the time of signing the will.

In some cases, people feel prone to challenge a will. Judges may allow the challenge if there is substantial evidence. When one considers challenging a will they must hold the belief that the will is invalid, or they have not been properly provided for in the will. The people who could challenge the will are current or former spouses and civil partners. However, the current or former spouses and civil partners should have not remarried or entered into a new partnership. Wills are, in general, valid until the person’s death. However, there are exceptions. If a person remarries, or divorces a spouse, the will can be revoked.

People who have lived with the deceased for two years prior to the death of the person may also challenge, this includes children, or stepchildren. Additionally, if someone was financially dependent on the deceased they could challenge. They must, however, supply evidence that they were financially dependent, this includes children. There is a strict time frame of six months to challenge within the grant of probate being issued. Any challenge is considered to be legally complex and all parties should consult an attorney.

On the surface the Jackson’s will appears valid. However, there may be people who will challenge the will based on some of the conditions stated above. As always, a judge will review the plaintiff’s claims and he will base it upon what the law states.

James L. Walker

Entertainment Attorney

Leave a Comment