Many people never stop to think of how hard a job it is to administer the estate or trust of someone who passes away. Often, it’s a thankless job, filled with headaches. That’s certainly been the case for the Michael Jackson Estate executors: entertainment attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain. Well, at least the headache part.
Here are the top 5 legal challenges and complications that the estate executors have had to worry about in the last few months alone:
- The AEG Wrongful Death Trial: It’s aThriller!
Now nearing the five-month mark since opening statements, the heirs of Michael Jackson vs. AEG trial has been filled with twists and turns,
from Lionel Richie’s ex talking to the King of Pop’s ghost to Jackson’s childhood friendship with a mouse (as revealed by the Rolling Stone).
Where is the case now? Heading to the jury. While many in the media were quick to report how the Judge recently dismissed two AEG executives from the case, a more telling ruling came down at the same time. As reported by CNN:
This means that it’s completely up to the jury to decide if the Jackson heirs’ $40 billion claim will win or not. If the jury views the evidence like the Judge, and feels that there is “substantial evidence” that AEG hired Dr. Conrad Murray and helped cause Michael Jackson’s death, then his children and mother could win a huge payday.
As any trial lawyer can tell you, juries are unpredictable. Often, plaintiffs have an excellent chance at winning once they get their case to the jury. The fact they’ve made it this far could mean big trouble for AEG.
- The IRS Tells The Estate: Who’sBad?
Much was made of Michael Jackson’s debt when he passed away — it was recently estimated to be as much as $500 million. While Branca and McClain have taken some heat (like from Randy Jackson, below), there is no disputing that they’ve done a masterful job at guiding the estate through troubled waters into a series of huge paydays. Reportedly, they’ve brought in over $600 million during the first four years.
- Alleged Egg Donor Goes To Court To Send Message To Jackson Kids: I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.
The Michael Jackson Estate has other headaches to deal with. Like who exactly is the mother of Michael Jackson’s three kids? Deborah Rowe is often referred to as the mother of Michael Jackson’s oldest two children, Prince and Paris.
But, a new court filing by a woman named Christine Leroux claims that she was the egg donor for all three of Michael’s children, and she enjoyed a secret, lifetime relationship with the King of Pop. She says she will pursue a custody battle through a guardianship proceeding, because she is worried over the welfare of the kids.
- Randy Jackson Still Mad At The Executors; Wants Them ToBeat It.
As crazy as Leroux’s allegations sound, they don’t stand alone. In fact, far from it. John Branca told 60 minutes that they’ve had to deal with countless ridiculous claims.
Michael Jackson’s executors also have to deal with continued rumblings from Jackson’s siblings, some of whom maintain that the will was fake. Recently, brother Randy Jackson called Branca and McClain — along with their lead attorney, Howard Weitzman — the “three stooges.” He says the family is not happy with them, and points to the recent IRS dispute as the “tip of the iceberg”.
After the failed “kidnapping” attempt of Katherine Jackson last year by Randy and two of his siblings (Janet and Jermaine), Randy admits that the siblings are not all getting along. But the only family member who, at this point, has legal standing to challenge the executors is Katherine Jackson. Despite some initial complaining in the months after Michael Jackson’s death, Katherine has not fought Branca and McClain during the last few years.
- The Latest Sex Abuse Claim: Was Jackson ASmooth Criminal?
And where would Michael Jackson’s legal turmoil be without at least one claim of child molestation? Choreographer Wade Robson was one of the King of Pop’s staunchest allies during the 2005 criminal trial against Michael Jackson — which found him not guilty of child molestation.
A few months ago, Robson filed a claim against the Estate contending that he was the victim of abuse by Jackson as a child. He points to a breakdown and years of therapy allowing him to reverse course and bring the claim, after repeatedly testifying and saying in interviews that Jackson never touched him.
While perhaps no other estate executors and trustees have ever had more complicated legal messes to sort through, the Michael Jackson Estate still has an estate planning lesson for the rest of us. Everyone planning their estate should think carefully about who should serve in that all-important role of executor or trustee.
Many make the mistake of automatically selecting the oldest child, or the one who lives closest, rather than the person — even if not a family member — who is the most trustworthy and well-qualified to do the job. Administering an estate or trust is never easy — even when there aren’t Jackson-sized legal dilemmas at every turn. So choose carefully when planning your estate and trust!