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Jackson family strife shows pitfalls of probate litigation

Some of our Oakland County readers may be keeping up with the family strife that is tearing the world-famous Jackson family apart these days. Michael Jackson's death was both sudden and tragic, and even after so much time has passed since then, his family members are waging a very public and, at times, very nasty fight over perceived problems with his estate administration.

The wishes laid out in Jackson's will continue to be debated in probate court, with some of his siblings claiming that the executor of the estate is playing the media to construe the storylines against them. These siblings claim that the date on which Jackson supposedly signed his will does not match the information they have, which states he was in a different state at that time. They claim that their only interest in contesting the will is to ensure that Jackson's wishes are fulfilled.

Guardianship of Jackson's three children is also being hotly disputed. Jackson's will designated his mother as the sole guardian, but a judge recently named one of Jackson's cousins as a co-guardian. Jackson's siblings claim they are being kept from visiting with the children, or even with their mother.

The probate process can be complicated and emotional for members of a family who disagree on the right course of action. Probate administration can get even more contentious when there are children involved, as is the case here. The first and most important step in preventing such disputes is to draw up a comprehensive estate plan, but subsequent steps, such as keeping the plan updated and informing family members of what to expect, can be just as important to the process.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "Jacksons say estate executors harming the family," Sandy Cohen, Aug. 4, 2012

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