Michael Jackson as been dead for one week, and he hasn’t been buried yet. That however, has not stopped the legal maneuvering to control or have a piece of his Estate.
A will was revealed soon after, Katherine Jackson, Michael’s mother petitioned the court for temporary custody of his minor children and Michael’s personal estate. A hearing as been scheduled for July 13, 2009
Soon after the petition was granted, a will was filed. The will drafted by Michael Jackson in 2002 divides the singer’s estate among his mother, three children and one or more charities. The document names as executors lawyer John Branca and a veteran music executive named John McClain who was also a friend of Mr. Jackson. Mr. Branca, who served as Mr. Jackson’s primary attorney between 1980 and 2006, wrote the will. Mr. Jackson had rehired Mr. Branca the week before his death last Thursday.
Although there is no mention of Pappa Joe, it is said that the will specifically leaves Debbie Rowe the alleged mother of two of Jackson’s children out of the will.
And this is where the the games begin.
Ho, ho, ho it’s child selling Debbie Rowe declaring to I want my children,” to an NBC Los Angeles news reporter. Ho, Ho Rowe also that she’d be willing to undergo any test necessary — including DNA and psychological — to win custody of the late King of Pop’s three children.
Rowe is also appears to be joining the Joe Jackson haters, saying she’s planning on seeking a restraining order against Pappa Joe. “I am stepping up. I have to,” Rowe said to reporter Chuck Henry.
Rowe says she is fighting to get custody of the three children left behind by Jackson: Michael Joseph Jr. (12), Paris Michael Katherine (11) and Prince Michael II (7). Prince Michael II was born to an unidentified surrogate mother. Rowe indicated that she doesn’t want to split the children up, and although she doesn’t expect to gain custody of Prince Michael II since he’s not her biological child, she’d be willing to accept custody of him.
Rowe’s attorney Eric George puts a different spin on Rowe’s sudden interest in custody. George told reporters Thursday evening that he did not question the credibility of the interview but added, “Debbie has not reached a final decision concerning the pending custody proceedings.”
Rowe had initially signed a contract with Jackson surrendering her parental rights, but an appeals court threw out that contract in 2006, ruling that Rowe remained the legal parent of son Michael Joseph Jr., 12, and daughter Paris Michael Katherine, 11.
Rowe retained visitation rights while Jackson kept custody of the children. The conflict between the lawyer and client may give the impression that Debbie Rowe is going to use her parental rights which are the most protected rights in this country as a shake down.
In order for a court to rule against Rowe, it will have to find er unfit. The definition of an unfit parent is governed by state laws, which vary by state. In California, a parent may be deemed unfit if they have been abusive, neglected, or failed to provide proper care for the child. A parent with a mental disturbance or addiction to drugs or alcohol may also be found to be an unfit parent. Failure to visit, provide support, or incarceration are other examples of grounds for being found unfit. The best interest of the child is the determining factor. In considering the best interests of a child, a judge may consider the custodial preference of a child of suitable age. However, a child’s preference alone, even if the child is a teenager, is not binding on a judge.
The question is whether granting custody to a mother who sold away her parental rights in 1999, and who subsequently bargained away her custodial rights for substantial sums of money would be in the best interest of these children?
Although the California courts should see something unconscionable about such a woman, it is not guaranteed that the court will rule in favor of a 79 year old Katherine Jackson. So to be sure that Michael’s wishes are carried out, a settlement with Debbie Rowe may be imminent.
Michael Jackson is alleged to have died with around $500 million debt, but the value of his assets probably outweigh that, possibly by $200 million or more, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Jackson’s most valuable asset is believed to be his 50% stake in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a joint venture with Sony Corp. That stake is collateral for a $300 million loan held by Barclays PLC. And Mr. Jackson’s level of control over the venture was reduced in a 2006 refinancing. For instance, he no longer has veto power over key executive appointments, according to people familiar with the situation. Sony also has the right to buy half of Mr. Jackson’s 50% stake when it chooses.
Jackson’s other assets include Mijac, a publishing catalog that comprises his own musical composition that is collateral for a separate $73 million loan. And control of the master recordings of his albums, currently in the hands of Sony, is set to revert to him in five years, according to people familiar with the matter.
Jackson last year defaulted on a $24.5 million loan backed by another major component of his portfolio, Neverland Valley Ranch causing him to become a partner in a venture — Sycamore Valley Ranch Co., LLC — that now owns the property. It is not clear what will become of the property once the will is executed.
Apart from the wrangling over the will, funeral arrangements have been finalized. On Tuesday morning a motorcade will go from Forest Lawn Mortuary in L.A. to the Staples Center complex in downtown Los Angeles where the public memorial will be held.
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