Today, a judge upheld Michael Jackson’s written will, and granted co-executor rights to John Branca and John McClain, an attorney and a music industry executive. See update on Paris Jackson paternity below.
In 2002, Jackson signed the will that specified John Branca and John McClain as the Jackson Estate executors. The judge ruled that Branca and McClain keep Michael’s mother, Katherine Jackson “apprised of their dealings.” Branca and McClain said that they would “would carry out Jackson’s wishes and maximize his estate’s value.”
At the time of the will, Jackson’s estate was estimated to be worth $500 million, but today his debt is estimated at $400 million.
Jackson owned one-half of Sony-ATV, which controls a music catalogue which includes songs from The Beatles and other artists and has been valued as high as $1 billion. Jackson also owned a company that controlled the rights to music he recorded during his solo career, and its value is expected to rise over time.
Rumors are that Michael’s money, is there is any left, will be divided among his children, his mother and his charities. This reports say that a “no-contest clause in the will prevents any beneficiary from contesting the distribution of the estate. If any beneficiary does protest the will, that beneficiary will be stricken from the will.
Katherine Jackson attempted to secure executorship from Branca and McClain. That request was denied. Mrs. Jackson’s attorney made it clear to the judge that she was not contesting the will:
Katherine’s lawyer raised concerns about Branca’s relations with Michael. After working together for 20 years, Branca and Michael drifted apart in 2006. However just three weeks before his death, Michael re-inducted Branca into his team.
Branca’s lawyer showed the court a letter from Michael dated June 17, 2009, just eight days before his death, in which Michael reiterated that he wants Branca in control of his affairs.
Katherine’s attorneys also suggested that McClain should be excluded because of an alleged “infirmity,” though his lawyer said McClain was in “fine mental capacity.”
While the judge ruled in favor of Branca and McClain administering the estate as wished by Michael, he directed them to seek court approval for decisions involving marshaling the assets, attorney’s fees, and settling claims and actions.
The court also asked the administrators to execute a $1 million bond to protect the estate from any misappropriation of the estate.
The will is said to have been in the possession of John Branca, so it’s convenient that Jackson rehired him just days before his death. Twenty percent is said to be going to “unspecified” children’s charities, 40% to his mother and 40% divided between his children.
Some gossip from January 2009: Reports in the U.K. were rampant that Jackson was dying of a genetic lung disease and planned to will-back his ownership portion of the Beatles’ music catalog. In 1985, Michael Jackson out-bid Paul Cartney to take ownership of the Beatles’ music catalog.
U.K. newspaper the Daily Mirror quotes a Jackson insider as saying, “Michael told his lawyers he was sad he no longer talks to Sir Paul and said he wanted to make things right.
Jackson and McCartney ended their friendship over the the transaction, but the bottom line is Jackson valued the catalog more than did McCartney. McCartney could have had it his way and placed the highest bid. He didn’t.
Jackson’s unofficial Brit biographer, Ian Halperin, has spawned rumors of a lung disease and even predicted that Jackson would be dead within 6 months. Jackson died 6 months and 1 day after Halperin’s comment. Now come rumors that Jackson knew he was dying, and so the talk of McCartney getting his music catalog back.