The media has been covering Michael Jackson’s death quite extensively and many regularly scheduled programs will not air tomorrow as his memorial service is broadcast live around the world. News outlets are digging, trying to answer many questions surrounding his untimely passing, including estate and guardianship issues involving his children. However distasteful, it isn’t surprising that Michael Jackson’s Will was made available for anyone to see online within hours of it being filed with a Los Angeles Probate Court.
Shocked that such an intimate document is available for public reading? Don’t be. Wills become public documents when they are filed at the local Probate Court.
So what did we learn from his Will?
- His ex-wife, Deborah Rowe received nothing,
- He named his mother, Katherine Jackson, to act as guardian for his children and their estates if he died while they were minors.
- The successor guardian, if Katherine can’t serve in that role, is none other than Diana Ross!! (Huh?!)
So what do you do if you don’t want all your estate planning wishes to be read and scrutinized by anyone, including the media? How do you maintain your privacy? You create a Revocable Living Trust in conjunction with your Will. Michael Jackson did and you don’t need to be a superstar to have one drafted to protect your family.
Jackson created the Michael Jackson Family Trust, which is referenced in his Will. Both were signed in 2002. These are the most recent estate planning documents Jackson executed that have been presented to the court, to date. There is a chance that more recent documents will surface in the near future. In Massachusetts, anyone holding a Will of a deceased person has 30 days to file it with the appropriate Probate Court.
So how much money did Michael Jackson have? Who gets his real estate and assets under the Will? His entire estate was transferred to the Michael Jackson Family Trust, a private document that is not scrutinized by anyone other than his named trustees. Arguably, not even the Probate Court in Massachusetts would be involved had he been a resident. Logically, his three children are would-be beneficiaries, but no one knows for sure because the Trust is a private document.
So, despite all the media kerfuffle that has occured since Michael Jackson’s passing, the King of Pop has managed to keep some private matters private through proper estate planning, something even the average American should consider.
So when is a Will not enough? Want to know if a Revocable Living Trust is right for you and your family? Set up a consultation with Vickstrom Law to review your family’s specific needs.