Jackson's Mom Loses Bid to Control Estate

Katherine Jackson is driven into the Jackson family home, Sunday, July 5, 2009, in the Encino section of Los Angeles. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

A judge said Monday that Michael Jackson's longtime attorney and a family friend should take over the pop singer's estate for now, rejecting a request from Jackson's mother to be put in charge.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff backed attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain, who had been designated in Jackson's 2002 will as the people he wanted to administer his estate. Attorneys for the pop singer's mother repeatedly objected to their appointment at Monday's court hearing.

Jackson died June 25, deeply in debt. But a court filing estimates that his estate will be worth more than $500 million. His assets are destined for a private trust.

The singer's mother, Katherine Jackson, had applied to oversee her son's estate, but that was before the will surfaced. Her attorney, Burt Levitch, expressed concerns about McClain and Branca's financial leadership.

Levitch told Beckloff that Branca had previously been removed from financial positions of authority by Jackson. Branca's attorney says he was rehired by Jackson on June 17, days before Jackson's death.

Katherine Jackson did not appear at Monday's hearing. Branca did attend.

"This isn't a shock, especially since Jackson's 2002 will is now presumed to be valid absent any serious challenge to it," said CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen. "The ruling gives the executors of that will power now to act on Jackson's behalf in financial matters but it's not a permanent order and it's conceivable we could see future challenges to their power."

"The body isn't even in the ground yet. It's very, very early in this process and we could easily see more changes here to how the estate is handled," Cohen said. "But right now the judge is giving the benefit of the doubt to the instructions offered in Jackson's 2002 will, which called for non-family members to execute its provisions."


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Levitch said it was unclear whether McClain would serve as an administrator because he was of ailing health. Attorneys for McClain and Branca described him as having a physical disability but having a completely sound mind. They also noted a decades-long relationship with the Jackson family.

Branca and McClain will have to post a $1 million bond on the estate, Beckloff ruled. Their authority over the estate will expire Aug. 3, when another hearing on the estate will be held.

"Mr. Branca and Mr. McClain for the next month are at the helm of the ship," Beckloff said.

Katherine Jackson's attorneys had asked that she be appointed to serve as a co-administrator with Branca and McClain. Beckloff refused to grant that request.

The judge granted Branca and McClain several powers over the estate, including the rights to negotiate a settlement with concert promoter AEG Live over refunds for Jackson's canceled London shows. Beckloff stressed that Katherine Jackson should be given complete information about major transactions, but that he as the judge would grant final approval.

The Death Of Michael Jackson, Full Coverage

John E. Schreiber, an attorney for Katherine Jackson, said, "Frankly, Mrs. Jackson has concerns about handing over the keys to the kingdom."

Paul Gordon Hoffman, an attorney for Branca and McClain, said some of Katherine Jackson's concerns were unfounded.

"We're not aware of any real conflicts at all," he said in response to a claim that the men may have business dealings with parties such as concert promoter AEG Live.

In contrast, Hoffman said Jackson's mother had more of a potential conflict administering the estate because she is a likely beneficiary.

"If there are any conflicts by the parties, Katherine Jackson rather than Mr. McClain and Mr. Branca have them," Hoffman said.

Beckloff noted the contentious relationship brewing between Katherine Jackson and Branca, who personally delivered the will to the family's home a week ago.



"We're getting off to a bit of a rocky start here out of the gate," Beckloff said toward the end of Monday's hearing.


"It's important with such a complex estate involved, and with so many pressing business matters to attend to, for the judge to act quickly, at least on the financial side of the Jackson legacy," CBS' Cohen said. "It's a ruling that turns the singer's mother from an administrator into a beneficiary since that's what the 2002 will called for."

"This ruling has nothing to do with custody over Jackson's children but if this will indeed is determined to be valid down the road it'll be strong evidence of Jackson's wish to have his mother, and not Debbie Rowe, have primary care for the kids," Cohen added. "So that may preclude Jackson's mother from challenging the will after all."

A public memorial has been scheduled for Jackson in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday. More than 1.6 million people registered to win the coveted free tickets, and only 8,750 names were chosen.

Los Angeles officials are concerned about other fans clogging city streets

Downtown hotels were quickly filling Monday, and police warned those without tickets to the memorial to stay away.





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