Newspapers and magazines are already commenting that Michael Jackson’s estate will be a real nightmare. No one seems to know at this point whether Jackson had a will or a trust. Some people think there is no way he would have failed to provide for his children. In the absence of a will or a trust, his children would inherit the estate equally.
Whether Jackson created an estate plan or not, his estate will have to be settled, either in the probate court, or through trust administration. There are many creditors already lining up to be included. Although Jackson sold millions of records, he reportedly was in serious debt, perhaps as much as $400 million.
One of the assets in his estate that is going to be fascinating is the publishing rights Jackson had to millions of songs. Jackson outbid Sir Paul McCartney for a 50% interest in a music publishing catalog that includes rights to the Beatles hits as well as publishing rights to other hits by major artists, Jackson apparently paid $48 million for the rights, now estimated to be worth $500 million.
Interestingly, since Jackson died in 2009, his estate will have less estate taxes to pay than had he died last year. In 2008, the federal estate tax level for a single person was $2 million. In 2009, it is $3.5 million. However in 2010, the estate tax is scheduled to disappear entirely. For most Americans, it doesn’t matter a great deal, but think of the savings for the rich and famous by dying in 2010!