updated 07/01/2009 AT 4:40 PM ET
•originally published 07/01/2009 AT 1:05 PM ET
The close, lifelong ties between Michael Jackson’s and his friend Diana Ross are made dramatically clear in his 2002 will – he chose her to raise his three children if his mother is unable to do so.
The Jackson family matriarch Katherine Jackson, who is now watching the children, is named as the primary guardian, followed by Ross, 65, if Katherine dies or “is unwilling or unable” to act as guardian, according to the will, released Wednesday.
As for what Jackson leaves behind, a petition attached to the will values his estate at $500 million – nearly all of it “non-cash, non-liquid assets” in the form of a lucrative music catalog and “interests in various entities.”
The inheritance goes into the Michael Jackson Family Trust, originally administered by lawyer John Branca, music executive John McClain and accountant Barry Siegel. But Siegel withdrew as co-executor in 2003.
Although it is the first indication of what Jackson wanted done in the event of his death, the will does little to settle the issues of custody and inheritance.
It was signed almost exactly seven years ago, on July 7, 2002, and predates a 2005 custody fight between Jackson and Debbie Rowe, 51, the mother of his two older children, Prince Michael, 12, and Paris, 11. Rowe’s attorney claims Rowe now has parental rights over those kids, which she can exercise now if she chooses. (Jackson has a third child, Blanket, 7, whose mother is unknown.)
Custody, Money Disputes
With disputes already brewing over the children and the money, Katherine Jackson has been granted temporary guardianship and named a special administrator of the estate.
But Paul Gordon Hoffman, an attorney for the estate, appeared at a hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday morning seeking to vacate that special admimistrator order.
“Tens of millions of dollars are at stake here, said Hoffman. At issue were “contacts and obligations” that needed immediate attention, including the refunds of the $85 million in ticket sales for the planned concerts by Jackson in London this summer. Also, Hoffman said a witness has informed estate attorneys that Katherine has been exceeding her powers in trying to collect and access funds from the estate.
Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff denied the motion and left Katherine with temporary oversight of the estate. He said he expected Katherine Jackson to operate within the limits of her authority. He said that he granted her the temporary guardianship of the estate in large part to protect Michael s memorabilia, which recently was subject to a failed auction attempt and lawsuit.
The $500 million value of the estate is seriously in question, with Jackson hit by a number of severe financial setbacks after the will was signed and now facing a variety of lawsuits for unpaid bills.