Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When Wills Do Not Matter Anymore: Do We Still Live In a Nation of Laws?

Posted: 09 Nov 2009 03:54 PM PST

Joe Jackson allowance request shows disrespect for son, grandchildren
Lou Ann Anderson
November 9, 2009

In a show of disrespect to his son’s final wishes and grandchildren’s beneficial status, Joe Jackson is reported to be seeking “some manner” of support from the Michael Jackson estate. Here’s a practical translation: Joe Jackson is asking the court to disregard the final wishes of his son, Michael, as communicated in recognized legal documents and he also is asking for the court to diminish the inheritance rights of the named beneficiaries - his wife and more importantly, three grandchildren - in lieu of the elder Jackson’s own self-enrichment.

From the Associated Press:

Michael Jackson’s father is seeking an allowance from his son’s estate to help cover expenses that exceed $15,000 a month, according to court documents filed Friday. The request seeking an unspecified amount for Joe Jackson was filed by lawyer Brian Oxman, who said there was no apparent reason for the administrators of the estate to not seek an allowance for the Jackson family patriarch.

Michael Jackson’s 2002 will, however, omitted any mention of his father. The two had an often-strained relationship, and Michael Jackson said at one point that he would get physically sick — as a child and as an adult — at the sight of his father.

The singer’s private trust calls for money to be paid to his mother, Katherine, his three young children, and various charities.

No apparent reason for the administrators to not seek an allowance for Joe Jackson? How about the fact that Michael Jackson declined naming him as a beneficiary? Either what is written in these estate planning documents means something or it doesn’t. Evidently per Oxman, it doesn’t. We’ll see if a Los Angeles Superior Court judge agrees.

And if using the “no apparent reason not to” argument, why not kick out some dough for Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon? But wait, there’s more. With this rationale, why exclude Rebbie, La Toya, Randy and Janet? To her credit, Janet seems to have actually made something of herself, but past that, who knows how many of these other people were living out of Michael Jackson’s pocket. So by attorney Oxman’s standards, should not all family members who previously mooched off the pop star now file their allowance documents?

In his estate plan, Michael Jackson specifically provided for his mother. That was his stated wish and so it should be. Unnamed charities are also said to be beneficiaries. By virtue of age and relationship, it appears Jackson intended for his children to be the main beneficiaries of his estate, something that decent people would understand and honor. It is deplorable for Joe Jackson to now seek diminishing his minor grandchildren’s means of support due to his personal life choice of dependency rather than self-sufficiency. While he may justify this claim with a “there’s plenty of money” mentality, the point should be that the money being sought belonged to Michael Jackson and was clearly not intended for him. Additionally, Joe Jackson has had a lifetime of opportunity to use his sons’ fame for the creation of his own wealth. The tab for not having done so should not be paid by his functionally-orphaned grandchildren.

The AP further reports:

The filing claims Joe Jackson, who suffers from diabetes, was supported by Michael Jackson before his sudden death through payments made to the singer’s mother and Joe Jackson’s wife, Katherine Jackson, which were passed on to Joe Jackson.

Joe Jackson says his expenses exceed $20,000 per month, but his income from U.S. Social Security is a mere $1,700.

“Mr. Jackson’s circumstances require a family allowance because he is 81 years old and Michael Jackson supported him in the same manner as his wife, Katherine Jackson, who was Michael’s mother and who the court granted a family allowance on October 2,” says the petition.

If Katherine Jackson elects to share her monthly allowance with husband (they reportedly maintain separate residences - Katherine in California, Joe in Nevada), that’s her choice. To ask the court to defy Michael Jackson’s wishes is completely inappropriate.

Do final wishes written in a will really count? Sadly, the answer increasingly is no. The state of New York has disregarded Leona Helmsley’s wishes by adding previously excluded heirs to her estate distribution plan and, to date, by witholding estate assets from her desired goal of helping dogs. Read through the articles and columns at EstateofDenial.com to see more examples of similar cases.

An expedited hearing request on Joe Jackson’s filing has been denied. An early 2010 hearing is scheduled and Katherine Jackson’s allowance status may be reviewed.

If the court approves Joe Jackson’s dopey “why not?” request to undermine his son’s final wishes, Californians will hopefully realize that despite legal industry talking points, their desired final distribution of assets is also completely subject to being changed or ignored. And folks in the other 49 states, don’t get comfortable. It’s no better where you are as we’re all living in the Land of the Gimme-Gimmes and the Home of the I-Want-Mores. Study enough of these estate cases and this conclusion becomes self-evident.

Looting an estate is a tawdry, ugly business no matter how you try to pass it off and Joe Jackson is not alone in his pursuit. Americans from all points on the economic spectrum are slowly starting to learn that death, disability or incapacitation puts one’s assets in an up-for-grabs mode with inheritance rights of designated heirs/beneficiaries being tenuous at best.

Lou Ann Anderson is an advocate working to create awareness regarding the Texas probate system and its surrounding culture. She is the Online Producer at www.EstateofDenial.com and a Policy Advisor with Americans for Prosperity – Texas Foundation. Lou Ann may be contacted at info@EstateofDenial.com.

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