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Michael Jackson’s Will Tells Us a Lot by Telling Us Very Little

The Will of Michael Jackson was filed in Los Angeles Probate court yesterday.  Michael Jackson's Will.  From the will we really learn very little about the ultimate distribution of Jackson's large estate.  The entire estate is payable into the Michael Jackson Family Trust.  It appears that this "Family Trust" is a revocable living trust, given the statement in the will that Jackson himself was the initial trustee and trustor of the family trust, and the fact that is was amended and restated in 2002.  Beyond that, the will names the executors, makes sure to disinherit his ex wife, and containes some boilerplate language dealing with taxes and probate in other states. 

What we do learn from the will is the significant privacy benefits of an intervivos trust.  Unlike a will, a trust is not required to be filed in the public records, so beyond knowing that a trust exists, we know nothing of the beneficiaries, or even the trustees, of the trust.  The probate records will eventually tell us what property passed through probate into the trust, but even that will not give us a complete record of Jackson's estate since we have no knowledge of what other assets may already be in the estate. 

There has been speculation that the trust divides the esate between Jackson's mother, children, and charities, but there is no way to confirm any of this without disclosure of the trust document, and that privacy is precicely why Jackson chose a trust to manage his estate.  In doing so, Jackson joined a long line of celebrities who handled their affairs privately through a revocable living trust, including Paul "Bear" Bryant, Frank Sinatra, John Lennon, and John F. Kennedy. 

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