Trust And Will Lessons From Michael Jackson

In previous posts, our Los Angeles readers learned important lessons from the wills, trusts and estate planning of celebrities. Due to their fame, many of the personal details of a celebrity death are revealed. These details provide important lessons from which the rest of us can learn.

Recently, the dispute between Michael Jackson’s mother, who is the children’s guardian, and other family members has been in the news. Five of the Jackson family members have written a letter to the estate’s executors claiming that Michael Jackson’s last will was “fake, flawed and fraudulent.” This will and trust dispute teaches us three important lessons.

  • Lesson one: If you have a will dispute in California, it must be filed within a certain time period. Heirs have 120 days to challenge a will’s validity. After that date it is extremely difficult to challenge a will.
  • Lesson two: Keep wills and trusts up to date, with revisions as needed. Authorities recommend a will update every two or three years. Jackson’s last will was written in 2002 and he died in 2009. His mother, an 82-year-old woman, was appointed guardian of the children which is an unusually old age to be the guardian of young children.
  • Lesson three: Create trusts with the right amount of specificity. Apparently Jackson’s trust for his mother called for her care and well-being to be provided for. But what does that mean? Is that limo service to attend church or a one-bedroom apartment? Too many specifics are subject to challenges whereas not enough specifics leave the trust open to abuse or misinterpretation.

As of this posting, Jackson’s brother T.J. has day-to-day custodial responsibilities for the three Jackson children and Jackson’s mother has control of the finances.

Source: ABC News, “Michael Jackson Family Feud: Lessons for Wills and Trusts,” Alan Farnham, July 30, 2012

Our Los Angeles law firm represents individuals with a full range of estate planning needs including wills, trusts and guardianship issues such as those mentioned in this posting.