As a Marietta and Atlanta GA estate planning attorney and blogger on estate planning topics for several years, I have had the pleasure of getting to know many similar estate planning lawyers throughout the country. One of them, my colleague David Shulman of the South Florida Estate Planning Law Blog, has posted an excellent, concise and very timely discussion of, and a link to, the Last Will and Testament of Michael Jackson.
As I have posted before on my Georgia Wills, Trusts, Estate Planning and Probate Blog, we can show you a will after someone's death because it is a public record. Unlike many, however, as David points out, Mr. Jackson in this Will appears to have done it right: he had a trust (a private document) set up to hold his assets and this will transferred any property not otherwise ownedd by the trust but which was owned in the singer's individual name, to the trust, to be administered and distributed in accordance with the instructions left in the trust document. David's post continues below.
The will is what’s known as a “pour-over” will. In other words, instead of the will itself disposing of all of his assets directly, it instead transfers all of his assets to the “MICHAEL JACKSON FAMILY TRUST” as amended and restated on March 22, 2002. The terms of his revocable trust will govern the disposition of his property. I assume that most of the assets will remain in trust for his children and their children, with significant distributions to other family members and charities.
However, I don’t know. I’m only assuming.
A will is public and is filed with the court. A trust is not. There is no obligation to disclose the terms of the trust to the public. Certain beneficiaries are entitled to copies of the trust however, and it’s possible that one of them might leak it at some later point in time.
The executors of the will [. . .] are John Branca, John McClain, and Barry Siegel. Their primary responsibility will be to transfer the estate’s assets, that is the assets that were not already owned by the trust, to the trust. The successor trustee (whoever that might be) is then responsible for managing the trust estate.
He did nominate his mother, Katherine Jackson as the guardians of his minor children. In the event of the death, inability, or refusal to act of Katherine Jackson, he nominates, believe it or not, Diana Ross!
Those are the only details now. It’s a short five page will. Unless there is a subsequent will, or the trust somehow becomes public, this is all the information that will be public.
I’m actually impressed. It seems that as irresponsible of a person as he was, he might have actually done this correctly. [Compare this to the outcome of] Anna Nicole Smith.