Over the objections of Katherine Jackson, a Los Angeles probate judge today ruled that Michael Jackson's 2002 will is valid and that, per the singer's wishes, attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain are executors of his estate.
A lawyer for Michael Jackson's mother, John Schreiber, argued to the judge that "there is concern over handing over the keys to the kingdom so quickly."
But Judge Mitchell Beckloff refused, telling Schreiber, "Someone needs to be at the helm of the ship." Jackson's estate is estimated at $500 million-plus.
Katherine Jackson had been appointed temporary executor last week, when the family still believed the star had died without a will. But Branca surfaced with a five-page will written seven years ago, establishing him and McClain as executors.
The estate will be split among the singer's mother, his three children and charities, dissing ex-wife Debbie Rowe and giving Katherine custody of his kids.
At a press conference, Branca's attorney, Howard Weitzman, said that the executors were pleased with the ruling and sent condolences to the family.
"We believe Judge Beckloff made the correct decision. We intend to carry out the wishes Michael Jackson set forth. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Jackson family this week in remembering Michael as a beloved father, son and brother."
Michael Jackson with his parents, Joseph and Katherine Jackson.
Meanwhile, the court confirmed that another will, dated from 1997, was filed this week, also listing Branca as executor. The judge's ruling should not be affected, because Michael Jackson's last will from 2002 would trump any older one.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, a friend of the Jacksons, appeared on Good Morning America earlier today, expressing disappointment that the hearing wasn't delayed.
"I think it has been very insensitive, particularly to this family, that you would even think of scheduling a court hearing on the status of the mother the day before she has to go to the cemetery for her son," Sharpton said. "It's almost insulting."
Sure thing. Beckloff said he believed Branca and McClain would act in the best interest of the estate and be best equipped to sort through various complicated legal and financial problems, ranging from lingering IOUs and lawsuits.
The singer's private funeral and public memorial take place tomorrow.
The next hearing in the probate case is set for August 3. For more details, click to enlarge some of the key portions of Michael Jackson's will ...