THE BLOG
08/02/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Michael's Will Not a "Thriller" But There is More to Come

As I suggested in my earlier blog, I did not expect Michael Jackson to have died without a will. As it turns out, it appears that Jackson made a new will in 2002. If this is Jackson's last valid will, the will is a pretty simple and standard one for wealthy individuals. Rather than directing how his assets are being disposed of in the will itself, Jackson, directs that his assets should be disposed of in accordance with his previously established Michael Jackson Family Trust.

In essence, he leaves all of his assets to his family trust which was set up prior to the will. The terms of that trust are what will govern how his assets are disposed of. Jackson also permits changes to be made to the trust after the date of the will.

One of the reasons wealthy persons set up wills which transfer assets to a family trust is to avoid the trust becoming public. A will, when it is probated, becomes a public document. A trust, on the other hand, may remain private and does not necessarily have to be filed in court. That might be the case for other people, but it certainly won't be the case for "The King of Pop".

Not surprisingly, Jackson's will also specifically excludes his heirs and his former wife, Deborah Rowe. Why put that in? It is common to recommend a specific exclusion for person who might be expected to have inherited from the estate. In this way, there can be no argument that the will maker simply forgot to consider including them in the will. That does not necessarily mean that those excluded from the estate cannot challenge the will or the trust. Typically, those types of challenges are based on claims of a lack of "testamentary capacity" or the mental capacity to make a will. More on that topic, later.

The complexity of the estate is not dependent on the terms of the will, but rather the circumstances of the will maker at the time of his death. In that regard, it is an easy bet that Jackson's estate will be among the most complex and intriguing for estate experts and observers alike.