Jackson Will Includes Diana Ross, Not Ex

Still frame of Michael Jackson for 48 Hours special. CBS/48 Hours

Michael Jackson's 7-year-old will was filed Wednesday in a Los Angeles court, giving his entire estate to a family trust while making his mother the guardian of his children and cutting out his former wife Debbie Rowe.

Court documents estimated the current value of his estate at more than $500 million.

It names his mother, Katherine Jackson, as a beneficiary of the trust and the guardian of Jackson's children, who are also named as beneficiaries of the trust.

It also names entertainer Diana Ross as a successor guardian for the children and their estates if something happens to Katherine Jackson.

CBS News consultant J. Randy Taraborelli, a Jackson biographer, said on "The Early Show" Thursday that Ross is an excellent mother.

"We have never heard one single scandal about Diana Ross's children," he said.

Ross introduced the Jackson 5 on the Ed Sullivan Show in the late 1960s and was instrumental in launching their career. She was a lifelong friend of Michael Jackson.

"When he first moved to Los Angeles, he moved into Diana Ross' mansion and lived with her and she helped raise Michael Jackson," said Taraborelli.

Jackson's longtime lawyer John Branca and John McClain, a music executive and a family friend, are named in the will as co-executors.

Branca negotiated many of Jackson's best business deals in the 80's, including his purchase of a song catalog now worth hundreds of millions of dollars, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy. He reportedly was rehired by Jackson just days before his death.

Read the contents of Michael Jackson's will (.pdf)

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."

The executors moved quickly to take control of all of Michael Jackson's property, going to court Wednesday to challenge a previous ruling by the judge that gave Katherine Jackson control of 2,000 items from Neverland.

Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff said Katherine Jackson will retain authority over the items until another hearing set for Monday.








Beckloff urged attorneys from both sides to try to reach a compromise soon.

"I would like the family to sit down try to make this work that we don't have a difficult time in court," the judge said.

An effort to bury Michael Jackson at Neverland Ranch fizzled, and it appears more likely a funeral and burial will take place in Los Angeles, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The family has the final say.

Authorities in Santa Barbara County had been preparing for tens of thousands of fans to descend on the 2,500-acre ranch after media reports said a public viewing would take place later this week.

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.

A private memorial service for family and friends could take place at the ranch, most likely after the funeral.

The will, dated July 7, 2002, gives the entire estate to the Michael Jackson Family Trust. Details of the trust will not be made public.

California's attorney general, who oversees charitable donations from estates, is also named as a person who must be notified. It suggests some of the trust's proceeds could go to charity, although which ones might benefit was not clear.

The documents said Jackson's estate consisted almost entirely of "non-cash, non-liquid assets, including primarily an interest in a catalog of music royalty rights which is currently being administered by Sony ATV, and the interests of various entities."

One of Jackson's most lucrative assets is his stake in the massive Sony-ATV Music Publishing Catalog, which includes music by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Lady Gaga and the Jonas Brothers, and is estimated to be worth as much as $2 billion. The five-page will is signed by Jackson, and each paragraph includes Jackson's scrawling initials.

Jackson, who died June 25 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.

Katherine Jackson was granted temporary guardianship Monday of Jackson's three children. A judge held off on requests to control the children's estates.

Jackson was at odds with Rowe over custody of their kids at the time he signed the will. She was intentionally omitted from the will, according to Jackson's wishes.

"That is a big surprise, and I think it's going to be a terrible blow to her," Taraborelli said.

Rowe gave up parental rights for a multi-million dollar settlement, reports Tracy.

But according to attorney and former prosecutor Jack Ford, anchor of "Courtside" on the In Session Channel, leaving Rowe out isn't an insult, and shouldn't come as a surprise.

"It's not saying, I'm gonna rub her nose in this, you're not part of the package at all," Ford said. "Essentially, she had given up on their marriage. It was dissolved. They had resolved their property distribution, they also had resolved the custody issues."

Ford said the will indicates the lawyer was being careful by saying Rowe isn't going to be part of the family and shouldn't be entitled to any part of the estate.

But "Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez said Rowe may contest the will because it's dated back to 2002.

Ford said the only way Rowe could challenge the will would be if she began questioning the custody of her biological children.

"The biological parent always has an advantage, but it's not a slamdunk," Ford said. "(The court) always looks at what's in the best interests of the child, but she could come into play for custody, but not getting part of the estate."

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





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