The Last Will and Testament of Michael Jackson
Summary of the Contents of the Michael Jackson's Will
Michael Jackson left three minor children when he died unexpectedly on June 25, 2009: Michael Joseph "Prince" Jackson, Jr., Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, and Prince Michael "Blanket" Jackson II. Fortunately for them, Jackson also left an estate plan that included a last will and testament and a revocable living trust.
Michael Jackson's estate plan was trust-based as opposed to will-based. His last will and testament, referred to as a pour-over will, was, therefore, a relatively short document.
The King of Pop signed his last will and testament on July 7, 2002, shortly after the birth of his last child.
The Pour-Over Provisions of Michael Jackson's Will
Michael Jackson's will left his estate to the "Trustees of the Michael Jackson Family Trust, an amended and restated Declaration of Trust executed on March 22, 2002." This is the pour-over aspect of Jackson's trust-based estate plan—the will "poured" the assets of Jackson's estate into the hands of the trustees of the Michael Jackson Family Trust.
The trust was a simple revocable living trust, not a special type of irrevocable trust that is sometimes referred to as a family trust and is used by married couples to reduce estate taxes.
Other Provisions of the Will
John Branca, a longtime attorney for the Jackson family, was named to serve as co-executor of the estate along with music executive John McClain and accountant Barry Siegel. Only John Branca and John McClain were appointed.
Michael Jackson's mother, Katherine Jackson, was named as the guardian for Jackson's minor children. If Katherine Jackson was unable or unwilling to serve as the children's guardian, Diana Ross—yes, that Diana Ross—was named to serve as the backup guardian.
And what about Debbie Rowe, the biological mother of two of Jackson's three children? She and Katherine Jackson reached an agreement in August 2009 which allowed Katherine to serve as the guardian of all three of the children.
The will appears to be signed by John McClain and Barry Siegel as two of the three witnesses. All prior wills made by Michael Jackson were revoked in their entirety.
Contrary to popular belief, a will is not required to list anything about the nature of the testator's assets or net worth, and this was the case for Michael Jackson's will.
Who Was Left Out?
A "Petition for Probate" listed all the beneficiaries and fiduciaries named in the will and in the Michael Jackson Family Trust as is required by California law. Blatantly omitted from the list is Michael Jackson's father, Joe Jackson.
All Jackson's siblings were left out of the will as well, although Tito's three sons were named among "contingent remainder" beneficiaries, meaning that they would inherit if all other beneficiaries predeceased Jackson.
Deborah Jean Rowe Jackson—Michael Jackson's former wife and the mother of Prince Jackson and Paris Jackson—was intentionally omitted as a beneficiary of the will as well. Jackson and Rowe were married in November 1996 and divorced in October 1999.
Who Inherited and How Much?
It's actually the trust agreement, not the pour-over will, that dictates who inherits what in a trust-based estate plan. You'll have to read a copy of the 21-page Michael Jackson Family Trust if you want to know who ended up inheriting Michael Jackson's estate.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "What is a Revocable Living Trust?" Accessed Nov. 5, 2019.
HG.org. "What is the Difference Between a Will-based and Trust-based Plan?" Accessed Nov. 5, 2019.
The New York Times. "Michael Jackson's Will," Accessed Nov. 5, 2019.
Legal Information Institute. "Pour-Over Will," Accessed Nov. 5, 2019.
Judicial Council of California. "Petition for Probate (Probate-Decedents Estates)." Accessed Nov. 5, 2019.
Ginsberg Shulman. "Amended and Restated Declaration of Trust." Accessed Nov. 5, 2019.