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Michael Jackson's will leaves Neverland Ranch in trust

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 | 4:19 p.m. CDT

LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson's 7-year-old will was filed Wednesday in a Los Angeles court, giving his entire estate to a family trust and naming his mother as a beneficiary of the trust and the guardian of his three children.

The will names singer Diana Ross, a lifelong friend of Jackson, as a successor guardian to 79-year-old Katherine Jackson if necessary.

The will, dated July 7, 2002, estimated his estate at that time at more than $500 million. It gives the entire estate to the Michael Jackson Family Trust. His former wife Debbie Rowe is cut out of the will.

Meanwhile, a person familiar with the situation said no public Jackson memorial was planned for his sprawling Neverland Ranch, which is about 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Santa Barbara officials had discussed the possibility of a memorial or public viewing on Thursday.

But the person, who is not authorized to speak for the family and requested anonymity, said nothing was planned for Neverland at least through Friday. The source said it appears more likely a funeral and burial will take place in Los Angeles. The family has the final say.

The person says billionaire Thomas Barrack, who owns Neverland in a joint venture with Jackson, sought an exemption to bury the singer at the ranch. But the person says it's a complicated process and it couldn't be done for a burial this week.

The will said Jackson's estate consisted almost entirely of "noncash, nonliquid assets, including primarily an interest in a catalogue of music royalty rights which is currently being administered by Sony ATV, and the interests of various entities."

It also names Jackson's longtime lawyer John Branca and John McClain, a music executive and a family friend, as co-executors of the will.

Jackson, who died Thursday at age 50, left behind three children: son Michael Joseph Jr., known as Prince Michael, 12; daughter Paris Michael Katherine, 11; and son Prince Michael II, 7. Rowe was the mother of the two oldest children; the youngest was born to a surrogate mother, who has never been identified.

The children are named in the will.

In a statement, Branca and McClain said: "The most important element of Michael's will is his unwavering desire that his mother, Katherine, become the legal guardian for his three children. As we work to carry out Michael's instructions to safeguard both the future of his children as well as the remarkable legacy he left us as an artist we ask that all matters involving his estate be handled with the dignity and the respect that Michael and his family deserve."

Katherine Jackson was granted temporary guardianship Monday of Jackson's three children. A judge held off on requests to control the children's estates and gave her limited control over her son's troubled, but lucrative finances.

Rowe, who was married to Jackson in 1996 and filed for divorce three years later, surrendered her parental rights. An appeals court later found that was done in error, and Rowe and Jackson entered an out-of-court settlement in 2006.

Neither Rowe nor her attorneys have indicated whether she intends to seek custody of the two oldest children.

 


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