When Michael Jackson died unexpectedly on June 25, 2009, he left behind three minor children, Michael Joseph "Prince" Jackson, Jr., Paris Katherine Michael Jackson, and Prince Michael "Blanket" Jackson II, and, fortunately for them, an estate plan including a Last Will and Testament and a Revocable Living Trust.
Because Michael Jackson's estate plan is a "trust-based estate plan," as opposed to a "will-based estate plan," his Last Will and Testament, referred to by estate planning attorneys as a "Pour Over Will," is a relatively short document consisting of only five pages. The King of Pop signed his Last Will and Testament on July 7, 2002, and below you will find a summary of its brief contents.
Summary of the Provisions of the Last Will and Testament of Michael Joseph Jackson
- As mentioned above, Michael Jackson signed his will on July 7, 2002.
- All prior wills made by Michael Jackson are revoked in their entirety.
- Michael Jackson's estate is left to the "Trustees of the Michael Jackson Family Trust, an amended and restated Declaration of Trust executed on March 22, 2002." This is the "pour over" aspect of Jackson's trust-based estate plan - in other words, the will "pours over" the assets of Jackson's estate into the hands of the Trustees of the Michael Jackson Family Trust. Note that the Michael Jackson Family Trust is a revocable living trust, not a special type of irrevocable trust that is sometimes referred to as a family trust and is used by married couples to reduce estate taxes.
- A long time attorney for the Jackson family, John Branca, music executive John McClain, and accountant Barry Siegel are named to serve as Co-Executors of the will. Since Mr. Siegel signed a letter on August 26, 2003, in which he declined to serve as an executor, only John Branca and John McClain were appointed to serve as the Co-Executors and are still currently serving as such.
- Michael Jackson's former wife and mother of Prince Jackson and Paris Jackson, Deborah Jean Rowe Jackson, is intentionally omitted as a beneficiary of the will. Jackson and Rowe were married in November 1996 and divorced in October 1999.
- Michael Jackson's mother, Katherine Jackson, is named to serve as the guardian for Jackson's minor children.
- If Katherine Jackson is unable or unwilling to serve as the children's guardian, then Diana Ross (yes, that Diana Ross) is named to serve as the back up guardian. What about Debbie Rowe, who is the natural parent of two of Jackson's three children? She and Katherine Jackson reached an agreement in August 2009 which allowed Katherine Jackson to serve as the guardian for all three of the children, and she still serves as their guardian today.
- The will appears to be signed by John McClain and Barry Siegel as two of the three witnesses.
- As required by California law, the related "Petition for Probate" lists all of the beneficiaries and fiduciaries named in the will and in the Michael Jackson Family Trust. Blatantly omitted from the list is Michael Jackson's father, Joe Jackson.
- Contrary to popular belief, a will is not required to list anything about the nature of the testator's assets or net worth, and such is the case for Michael Jackson's will.
Who Will Inherit Michael Jackson's Estate and When?
OK, so Michael Jackson's will "pours over" his estate into the hands of the Trustees of the Michael Jackson Family Trust - what does this mean? With a trust-based estate plan, it is the trust agreement, not the pour over will, that dictates who will inherit what and when they will inherit it. Thus, if you want to know who stands to inherit Michael Jackson's estate, then you will need to read a copy of the 21-page Michael Jackson Family Trust. If you do not want to read the agreement for yourself, then fortunately I have also taken the time to create a summary of the contents of the trust: What Does the Michael Jackson Family Trust Say?