LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A will signed by Michael Jackson putting his multimillion-dollar estate in a trust for his children and mother was filed in court on Wednesday, as details of his highly-anticipated funeral remained sketchy.
Some media outlets reported a memorial service would take place this coming Tuesday at Los Angeles’ Staples Center arena and others pointed to the city’s Coliseum sports stadium, but a spokesman for Jackson’s family could not confirm those reports nor could officials with the venues.
Jackson’s family did issue a statement saying the pop star would not be buried at his Neverland Valley Ranch in central California and no funeral or memorial service would take place there. Media outlets earlier in the week said the family was considering Neverland as a possible burial ground.
The will values the “Thriller” star’s estate at more than $500 million, and puts his assets in the Michael Jackson Family Trust, which ultimately benefits his three children, his mother and unnamed charities.
It specifically omitted his ex-wife Debbie Rowe, and named Jackson’s mother, Katherine, 79, as guardian of the children: Prince Michael Jackson Jr. 12, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, 11, and Prince Michael Joseph Jackson, II, 7. If Katherine Jackson cannot fulfill the guardianship duties, singer and long-time friend Diana Ross was nominated.
Rowe is the mother of the two eldest children, and her lawyer issued a statement describing as “entirely false” claims this week that Rowe was not the biological mother.
Before the will surfaced, Katherine Jackson was named temporary guardian of the children and administrator of the estate by a Los Angeles court until a hearing on July 6.
But the 2002 will names Los Angeles attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain as co-executors. They asked a Los Angeles judge to overturn Katherine Jackson’s administration of the estate on Wednesday, but the judge denied their request and put off a decision until Monday’s hearing.
Since his death last week, speculation has run rampant that there would be multiple wills and a legal battle over Jackson’s estate, which includes part ownership in a Beatles music catalog and Jackson’s own music company.
Jackson was said to be $500 million in debt when he died, but his assets have been reported to be worth as much as $1 billion, which would roughly approximate the will’s estimated value of Jackson’s estate that “exceeds $500 million.”
It was unclear whether the estate’s value in the court filing was made when the will was signed in 2002 or at the time of his death. In any case, that value could rise over time because Jackson is among the best-selling pop stars ever and his 1982 hit “Thriller” is the top-selling album of all time.
Attorney David Seeley, general counsel for the Marlon Brando Living Trust, said people came “out of the woodwork making all sorts of claims” after the legendary actor died.
“I assume that there will be all sorts of claims with Michael Jackson as well, due to the nature of his celebrity, and the amount of people that were around and the amount of money that’s involved,” Seeley said.
Already London resident Nona Paris Lola A. Jackson filed court papers in Los Angeles claiming she was Jackson’s wife and his estate and children should belong to her, but her similar past claims have been widely dismissed by legal experts and others.
Speculation continued about Jackson’s use of prescription drugs before his death, but toxicology results from an official autopsy could take weeks to determine what medications, if any, were in his system.
Jackson’s family has had a private autopsy performed and although patriarch Joe Jackson said on Monday the family would know results “real soon,” they have not yet been released.
Additional reporting by Jill Serjeant, Steve Gorman, Dan Whitcomb and Laura Isensee; Writing by Bob Tourtellote; Editing by Vicki Allen