Is Michael Jackson’s Estate Plan Working?

teenagersI’ve been actively following the saga of Michael Jackson’s children under the care and guardianship of his mother Katherine.  Now that his children are teenagers, Katherine has agreed to share custody with someone closer to their age.  She will remain in charge of money, and her grandson will be their legal guardian of person.

Fortunately, the Courts agreed and are allowing this plan to take shape in lieu of considering Michael’s second choice for guardianship, Diana Ross.  Is this what Michael intended when he setup his estate plan?  Life is a movie not a snapshot and it is very difficult when executing a will to look into the future and make these decisions. That is also why it is so important to revisit the plan and make sure it still works.

To make certain your wishes are clearly outlined in your estate plans, you will want to consider the following:

Picking a Guardian for Your Young Children

Who should take over parenting responsibilities for your children if you happen to die sud­denly? If you don’t plan ahead, the government will make the selection for you. This is probably the most emotional decision you will have to make in the estate planning process. The exercises below are designed to help you find the answer.

Examining Your Priorities

The act of parenting involves many different types of activities, responsibilities, value systems, and rituals… so many that we tend to do them instinctively, with little analysis or introspection.

When considering how you want your children to be raised if you are not going to be the one raising them, however, you should take a long hard look at the qualities you want your substitute to bring to the role as parent, and evaluate the relative importance of each of those qualities.

Examine the guardian characteristics listed below

  •   Family – Are blood ties paramount? Do you come from a close-knit family that prides itself on bonding together in times of trouble and “being there” for its own? Do you feel that naming a relative as guardian of your children will keep them in the nest and come closest to duplicating your parenting style? In making this decision, how important is “keeping it in the family”?
  • Finances – You will, as part of your estate planning, take steps to provide your children with enough money, in case you die early, to provide the lifestyle you desire for them. The question is: Does this lifestyle match that of the guardian? Will your children be living as “poor relatives” in a wealthier guardian’s home? Or will they be able to enjoy greater material benefits than the guardian’s own children, thereby creating tensions? Is the guardian you are choosing financially stable enough to assume this new responsibility?
  • Lifestyle – City life versus country life, staying in the same community versus mov­ing, emphasizing outdoor sports versus emphasizing academics, relaxed supervision versus strict discipline: What are the lifestyle choices you have made in raising your children, and how important is it to you to choose a guardian who will replicate them?
  • Love – They say no one can love you as passionately as your own parents, but some guardians will come closer than others. How important do you feel heartfelt affection is in child rearing, and how important is it to you to choose a guardian you believe will offer your child unconditional love?
  • Religion – If religion has been a backbone of your parenting, can you be sure the guardian you choose will perpetuate the traditions and teachings you have inculcated? Would it bother you if the guardian you choose brings up your children in a different religious faith? How important to you is a religious match in choosing a guardian?
  • Stability – How emotionally stable is the person you are choosing to care for your children? How strong is that person’s marriage? Employment record? Position in the community? How good is that person’s health? Is age a factor to be considered?


Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,


  1. Sherman Titens says:

    Patricia presents an excellent approach to the issue of protecting family and finances in an unforeseeable world. I would just add one additional item. You need Patricia Annino to create the appropriate overall plan and required documents. What a treasure trove of skills and experience she possesses. Remarkable. .

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