The Death of a Legend: Michael Jackson leaves loose ends

June 28, 2009 Hull & Hull LLP Executors and Trustees Tags: , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

Many people, including myself, paused on learning of Michael Jackson’s death.   While I have not searched out his music for several years, his death marks the end of an era. 

Michael Jackson’s music is part of my memory of growing up. I attended his concert in October 1984 at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

Of course, in my role as an estate litigator, other thoughts also come to mind. Namely, what issues will arise in untangling Michael Jackson’s estate?

Some of these issues are addressed in a New York Times article. One executive describes the singer’s estate as a "mess".  There are clearly valuable assets, including a 50 percent share of Sony/ATV Music Publishing which owns the rights to more than 200 Beatles songs; this asset alone may be worth more than $500 million.  Apparently these shares were not owned directly by the pop star, but rather by a trust controlled by his mother.  The shares therefore may not fall to Michael Jackson’s  estate but they would be part of his legacy.

The estate has debts too: Neverland cost many millions of dollars to operate annually and in recent years there was a $24.5 million debt against the property. Some commentators estimate Michael Jackson’s overall debt to be $400 million. 

All of these issues – from copyright and real estate assets to Michael Jackson’s personal and business loans – will take many months, if not years, to sort out.   

There were recent plans for a 50-concert comeback in London, England. Apparently fans had paid $90 million which will have to reimbursed and the concert preparations included payments for renovations to the venue as well as advance payments to Michael Jackson. 

As the administration of Michael Jackson’s estate unfolds, I suspect there may be more related topics to be covered in our blog.

Of course, for us regular folks, estate issues that we encounter in our own lives will be simple in comparison to the challenges faced by the Jackson family.  But there are some lessons: careful management of one’s affairs and good planning will lessen the load on named executors and estate trustees. 

Enjoy your Monday. 

Jonathan

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