The family of Michael Jackson will find the answers to lingering issues surrounding the late pop icon’s estate and the legal custody of his three children, who range in ages from 7 to 12, during a critical Aug. 3 hearing in Los Angeles.
Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, has hired high-profile celebrity attorney L. Londell McMillan to handle those legal affairs.
McMillan, who served as attorney for Michael Jackson for three years has also represented other music stars such as Prince, Stevie Wonder, Lil Kim and Kanye West.
In an exclusive interview, McMillan, who is Michael Jackson’s family-appointed legacy attorney and spokesperson, discussed the family’s goals and concerns in their battle for Michael’s children and legacy.
”Katherine Jackson, who is represented by myself and my team, have been in negotiations and discussions with Debbie Rowe and her lawyers,” McMillan responded when asked about the validity of reports that the family was negotiating a settlement with the surrogate mother of Michael’s two eldest kids to maintain custody. ”Mrs. Jackson and Ms. Rowe have both been conducting themselves in a very amicable, courteous manner, to do whatever is going to be done in the best interests of the children.”
There are two distinct legal actions at play that the Jackson family is pursuing. One action is as it relates to the custody and guardianship of Michael Jackson’s three children. The other is how it relates to the administration, control and management of Michael’s estate, which is believed to be valued in excess of half of a billion dollars. It includes his music recordings, art work, various real estate interests and business interests such as the Beatles renowned Sony/ATV music catalog and, of course, Michael’s own highly lucrative music publishing catalog.
Katherine Jackson currently has temporary custody of 12-year-old Michael Joseph Jr., known as Prince Michael; 11-year-old Paris Michael Katherine Jackson; and 7-year-old Prince Michael II, known as Blanket.
The lawyer said that despite the media scrutiny the negotiation process has not been contentious as has been reported. However, the same cannot be said about the proceedings involving the control of Michael’s estate.
”There have been quite a bit of back and forth and differences of opinion with respects to how Michael Jackson’s business will be handled and who will control, administer and handle his business assets. And that is how the difficulty has created much concern and debate,” McMillan said.
Katherine Jackson will contest custodial oversight of the will at the Aug. 3 probate, during which all claims will be resolved and the distribution of Michael’s property will be determined. The will, written by Michael Jackson in 2002, named attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain as the will’s executors. Michael’s close associates both have temporary control of Jackson’s estate. The assets will be transferred into a trust, which will also be administrated by the same co-executives, except the trust’s charitable component, at which point Katherine Jackson is a part of the trustee team. The will states that Katherine Jackson should be a beneficiary and named as the guardian of the children and their estates.
”Based on 2002, when that will was drafted, and June 25th of 2009, when Mr. Jackson passed away, there’s been considerable amount of evidence that Mr. Jackson would not and does not want this particular estate served by individuals that were listed in 2002 without his mother having a seat at that table,” McMillan explains why he believes Katherine Jackson should be allowed to be involved in the decisions of business affairs of the estate.
McMillan reasons that rather than fighting it out in the court system, this should be an invitation by the executive; particularly since Katherine Jackson is the only adult beneficiary of the will and the trust.
”For the life of me, we are having difficulties understanding why Mr. Branca and Mr. McClain continue to object to Michael Jackson’s mother serving on the trustee team with her advisers to make sure that Michael Jackson’s legacy is going to be administered and controlled in a way that she knows and those that were close to Michael toward the end of his days knows what he would have wanted,” McMillan said. ”To have his estate go into the hands of people from 2002 that he’s ceased doing business with, and that he later had disputes with, presents challenges and problems, and it also puts a legacy issue in question. And that is what we are seeking to resolve.”
McMillan also laid truth to rumors involving the roles of various family members on the matter.
”The truth is that Katherine Jackson will be the guardian,” McMillan responded when asked about reports that Michael’s sister Rebe Jackson would raise the kids if Katherine got awarded custody. ”She’s very active and she’s a very healthy and vibrant 70 plus year-old woman. She’s always been the primary maternal caretaker of that entire family and their grandchildren. The rumors are circulating, possibly, because Rebe is very close to her mother and she’s always been like a parent to her siblings and others.”
A lot has been made in the media about Joe Jackson’s involvement but McMillan shot that down also.
”He has very little, if any, influence other than he’s the grandfather. He said hello and he shows his support. He will have no child rearing obligations with these children,” he said. He added that Joe Jackson will have no connection to affairs of the estate.
”Michael did not have his family play a major role in his business, other than his mom. His mother is one that is a trustee and has been a trustee in his businesses and she should be a trustee in his post-death business. She’s the one person that he’s trusted more than anybody else in his life.”
McMillan argued that if Katherine Jackson is not in control of her son’s legacy then it will go into the hands of people who do not share the same interests as the late pop icon or the community that he was concerned about.
”Elvis Presley’s family has a seat at the table. The Beatles’ family has a seat at the table. Michael Jackson’s mother should have a seat at the table.”
For now, she is a beneficiary.
According to McMillan, the will divides Michael’s assets as such: 20 percent will go to charity, 40 percent held in trust for Mrs. Jackson and the rest will be held in trust for Michael’s children.
He said a primary concern here is if Mrs. Jackson doesn’t have custody, who will have control of Michael Jackson’s legacy and his history from here until the rest of time?
”He had some definitive views about how he wanted his life and legacy to be remembered. Why would people want to restrict his mother from serving in an equal capacity on some board to oversee Michael Jackson’s legacy? I don’t accept that proposition.”