The Michael Jackson probate dispute between his mother and his two executors has been active since it started this summer. But it looks like it’s about to really get heated up.
For starters, Katherine Jackson, Michael’s mother and a primary beneficiary (along with his children and unnamed charities), has been challenging decisions made by co-executors John Branca and John McClain on a regular basis. She had asked for, and received, permission from the judge to allow her to challenge them based on conflict of interest and undue influence without jeopardizing her rights as a beneficiary under the “no contest clause” of Jackson’s will and trust.
A “no contest clause” is a common provision than many people use in their wills and trusts to discourage family fighting. It usually says that anyone who files a legal challenge and loses gives up their inheritance. Katherine Jackson wanted to be free to challenge Branca and McClain without fear of losing her inheritance, and the judge allowed her to do so.
So far, her challenge have been limited to objecting to certain decisions they make (such as the many business deals they’ve entered into on behalf of the Jackson Estate) and asking the judge to reduce their legal authority. The judge so far has allowed them to keep control and make decisions, including entering into business deals and deal with creditors without his approval, as long as Katherine didn’t object. He also recently reiterated that Katherine Jackson is be kept informed.
But it seems this isn’t enough for Katherine. Instead, she seems ready to ramp up her efforts. Just a couple days ago, Katherine replaced her legal team with a new attorney, who has handled celebrity probate battles in the Anna Nicole Smith, Marlon Brando and James Brown cases.
One of the other attorneys representing Katherine says that this new probate lawyer was brought in because of “new evidence”. This evidence must be important, for he also said, “The case is now moving in a different direction”.
So what is the new evidence? Cnn.com and TMZ both said the new evidence questions the authenticity of Michael Jackson’s signature on the will. Family members said that he was in New York when the will was supposed to have been signed, meaning he couldn’t possibly have signed it.
What do you think? You can read Michael Jackson’s will here and see his signature for yourself.
Disputes over celebrity wills, trusts and estates can make for interesting reading. But they can also be very helpul for those who don’t want their families to end up the same way. Don’t let your heirs suffer from the same celebrity planning errors that happen time and time again.
Visit TrialAndHeirs.com to learn more how to use these celebrity stories to protect your family.
Posted by: Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law. You can email him at blog @ trialandheirs.com.