Michael Jackson may have been one of the most successful musical performers of all time, but, unfortunately, his prowess in song and dance did not extend into the estate-planning arena.
Apart from Grammy winning performances and number one selling albums, his legacy also continues to live on in what may be the mother of all probate proceedings currently underway in Los Angeles County. This time around, the only people that consider the event a “Thriller” are the attorneys and executors of his will who are collecting massive fees and the gossip columnists who get to soak up every juicy detail of the very public process.
Almost four years into the probate administration and things continue to drag on while fees continue to add up. Under a special agreement approved by the probate judge, the executors of Michael’s will (who are not relatives) receive 10% of certain income the estate earns. With earnings of up to $600 million since probate began, the executors may eventually walk away with north of one hundred million dollars. The attorneys are also entitled to statutory fees during probate, fees which could run into the tens of millions of dollars before all is said and done. These fees are a serious amount of money that will not go to Michael’s family and designated charities as Michael wished.
The reason we know so much about this situation is because Michael’s estate is going through court administered probate, a public proceeding where anything submitted to the court is on the record for all to see. Personal details thus far center on the lives of Michael’s children, who receive a combined $70,000 a month allowance for living expenses, including over $14,000 a month in salaries and payroll taxes for the people who take care of them. While this sounds like a large amount, it is far less than either the attorneys or the executors of the will are pulling in per month. It doesn’t seem right, but it is happening. The most unfortunate part of this situation is that it all could have been avoided with proper planning.
Make sure that your family is spared the expense, delay, and loss of privacy associated with the probate process. Please call for a complimentary discussion about how I can help you with all of your will, trust, probate, and estate planning needs.
Daniel L. DuRee is a third generation resident of Contra Costa County and a licensed attorney practicing in Walnut Creek. His practice focuses on wills, trusts, probate, and estate planning. He can be reached at 925 210-1400 or visit www.DuReeLaw.com.