Michael Jackson’s death on Thursday shocked the world. As fans and mourners line up to pay their respects (and snap up Jackson music and merchandise) the question now on the minds of many is: What will happen to Michael Jackson’s estate and to his children?
It is still too early to know what legal steps Jackson may have taken to handle his estate and protect his three young children. But the truth is that even if Jackson does have all the requisite estate planning documents in place, execution of his wishes is not likely to be simple. According to this article in the associated press Jackson was deep in debt at the time of his death—so much so that one source wonders, “[will there be] anything left after you pay off the debts?”
But the more immediate question for many people—especially parents—is what will happen to Jackson’s children? Jackson had full custody of his three children (two by ex-wife Debbie Rowe and one by a surrogate mother, both of whom gave up their custodial rights), and although no guardianship documents have yet been revealed, according to news sources “it was Jackson’s intention for his children to pass to his mother, Katherine,” should anything ever happen to him. However, rumors that Rowe plans to battle for custody, and that his 79 year old mother may be in poor health, promise that this too is not likely to be a straightforward process.
It seems that the days of simple wills are a thing of the past. Even for your average Joe, blended families, shared assets, managed debt and the need to provide care arrangements for dependents, make the execution of an estate plan more convoluted than ever. Does this mean we shouldn’t even try? Quite the contrary. It means that it’s more important than ever to document your wishes for your children, family and estate, and to update these plans as your family circumstances change.