Lessons to Learn from the Michael Jackson Estate Battle

The Jackson family is involved in a tense, high pressure family feud concerning the custody of the children and the future of Jackson’s sprawling Neverland estate. According to ABC News, the Jackson arguments offer a lot of tips for how men and women should prepare their wills and trusts. One estate attorney says that while the tips apply to everyone, this isn’t your typical American family. Because the Jacksons are in their own league, things are much more complicated in their estate battle then they are in your average American family. Five of the Jackson recently issued a letter to the executors of the Jackson estate and declared that the pop legend’s will was fake, flawed and fraudulent. The family claims that Jackson’s signature was falsified on the document, and that the will is someone else’s sick joke.

According to their complaint, Michael Jackson was in New York on the date that the will says it was drafted. Yet the paperwork says that the will was signed in California. This has led to a massive battle, in which the Jackson family claims that the two executors of the estate are acting for their own personal gain and disowning Michael’s wishes. The executors have been charged with coercing the family matriarch, Katherine Jackson, and mishandling business deals. They have also been charged with getting too much for themselves out of the dealings, and essentially robbing the Jackson family of their rightful fortune.

Yet the executors, John Branca and John McClain, say that the family’s claims are simply Internet conspiracy theories and they the family’s accusations are simply disheartening. They say that they have been able to make progress in turning the estate around, which was $500 million in debt at the time of the superstar’s death. Now, they have been able to revolutionize the estate so that it is at a $475 million profit. With the debate in full swing, estate lawyers are showing Americans what they can learn from the Jackson problems.

If you think that there is something fishy about a will, then you should act on that suspicion by notifying the executor right away. The Jackson’s waited awhile before making this move, which may have discounted their ability to prove their case. In California and various other states, an heir has only 120 days after the will does into probate to challenge whether or not it is valid. In the Jackson case, the family missed that 120 day deadline, though they are trying to get a special exemption from the rule because of their status. Legally, all they can do now is file a fraudulent concealment case. The problem is that they will have to explain why they waited so long in order to present the issue. If you have qualms about a will, try to address the issue as soon as possible to avoid missing your time limit of approximately 4 months.

Another lesson that people can take from the Jackson case is that you should have your will updated regularly. ABC News in conjunction with a variety of estate lawyers suggests that you update your will every two or three years. You should also update whenever you hit a milestone such as getting married, getting a raise, having a child, or receiving a grandchild into the family. Also, when your children get married you will want to update your will to include the in-laws if this is your desire. The reason to update your will so frequently is that circumstances change. Michael Jackson’s will was created in 2002, and was not updated in the 7 years he had between then and his death in 2009. He left the custody of his three children to his mother Katherine Jackson with Diana Ross as a backup. Unfortunately, his mother is 82 and has had a very difficult time caring for the children. It is also suspected that she may have had a stroke during a recent trip to Arizona. Had he updated his will, Jackson may have chosen a younger caretaker for his kids.

A last lesson from the Jackson estate concerns his trust. If you choose to set up a trust like Michael Jackson did, then you will want to give your trustees detailed instruction as to how they can best execute your wishes. If you don’t have details, your executor will not be sure that he or she is abiding by your wishes when making choices in the situations that might occur. By using these tips you may be able to better your estate and make clear your wishes for your heirs in the future.