The management of celebrity estates and asset distribution is notoriously complex. From musician Prince, who died without leaving a will, to actor Gary Coleman, who was reported to have left three, estate management requires legal knowledge and patience.
Celebrity attorney John Branca Age and music executive John McClain serve as co-executors of Michael Jackson’s massive estate. They have faced numerous complications and challenges since the pop star’s death in 2009. These disputes have taken multiple forms through the years.
Some of Michael Jackson’s siblings have accused his estate executors of improper behavior. They wrote letters and went public with conspiracy allegations, although other close family members did not participate or put their names to the charges leveled. There were allegations that the will was fraudulent and that there were irregularities in management procedures.
This matter went all the way to the California Supreme Court, and the charges were dismissed and the executors cleared legally of wrongdoing. However, the negative cloud building up around the late singer’s estate continued to grow darker.
Child Sexual Molestation Charges
A documentary in 2019 raised a new specter of child molestation by Jackson. The documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” is a joint production between HBO and the UK broadcaster Channel 4. It focuses on two men, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who allege Jackson sexually abused them when they were children. Jackson was cleared of child molestation charges in 2005. At that time, Jackson’s estate value dropped as his popularity waned and some radio stations even banned his music. Keeping the huge estate afloat during this time required tenacity and optimism from its executors.
Ultimately, the charges raised in “Leaving Neverland” were dismissed.
The Jackson estate also faced tax problems. In 2013, the IRS said the total estate was worth billions, with his likeness worth several million dollars. Celebrity estates such as Jackson’s continue to make or lose money after the stars die, which makes management particularly complex.
Executors must make decisions based on their knowledge of celebrities’ values and viewpoints, which has been the case with Jackson’s executors, Branca and McClain. They had to put legal knowledge and business acumen to work when the estate received a $700 million tax bill. The executors appealed this levy, which has been reduced.
A Bright Future
For Jackson’s estate, the future is looking bright. The executors had to steer the large holdings through difficult disputes, but now that the situation has grown quieter, attorney Branca expects the estate to grow and become profitable as Jackson’s popularity increases. From a Broadway musical to a Cirque du Soleil show, Jackson’s persona will be back in the public eye in a positive light.