LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson’s will gives guardianship over his children to the singer’s mother and leaves all his assets in a trust fund, a person with knowledge of the document told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The word came just a day after the family said in court documents it believed the entertainer had died without a valid will and moved to take control over his estate.
The will was created in July 2002 and named as executors Jackson’s longtime lawyer John Branca and John McClain, a music executive and a family friend, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the topic. The Jackson family and its lawyers are reviewing the document, the person said.
That designation complicates a petition by Jackson’s mother Katherine to become the administrator of his lucrative, but debt-encumbered estate.
In documents filed in Superior Court on Monday, Jackson’s parents say they believe their 50-year-old son died “intestate,” or without a valid will.
Judge Mitchell Beckloff granted 79-year-old Katherine Jackson temporary guardianship of his three children, who range in age from 7 to 12.
He also gave her control over some of her son’s personal property that is now in the hands of an unnamed third party. But the judge did not immediately rule on her requests to take charge of the children’s and Jackson’s estates.
Experts said the personal bankruptcy of Jackson’s parents in 1999 could work against Katherine taking control of the estate.
Court documents show Katherine and Joe Jackson filed for Chapter 7 and listed nearly $24 million in debts that included court judgments, auto loans and credit cards. The only valuable asset listed was a house in Las Vegas then valued at $290,000. The bankruptcy was terminated in March 2007, but the documents gave no further details.
“I think it would be a negative factor but not necessarily a disqualifier,” said Beth Kaufman, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney specializing in estate tax issues. “It could indicate that she is not capable of sound financial management.”
Jackson was recently in shaky financial health. In the most detailed account yet of the singer’s tangled financial empire, documents obtained by The Associated Press show Jackson claimed to have a net worth of $236.6 million as of March 31, 2007.
Since that time both Jackson’s debts and assets grew substantially — he refinanced loans later that year that increased his debt load by tens of millions of dollars, but the Sony/ATV Music Publishing joint venture also spent hundreds of millions acquiring new songs.
Jackson’s health also was a concern in his final days. A nutritionist who was working with the singer as he prepared his comeback bid said Jackson was so distraught over persistent insomnia in recent months that he pleaded for a powerful sedative despite warnings it could be harmful.
Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Lt. Butch Arnoldi said authorities met Tuesday based on speculation over a possible memorial at Neverland, but Jackson’s family had yet to reach out to them for assistance with any kind of memorial.
“We have not been contacted by any member of the family or any representative of the family, talking about or requesting any kind of event,” he said.