Michael Jackson’s mother was named temporary guardian today of his three children, and court papers filed by his family indicate that the singer died without a will.
According to papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Jackson’s three children are the sole beneficiaries of his estate and his mother, Katherine Jackson, is seeking to be named its administrator.
Though the Jackson family matriarch’s court documents indicate her son died intestate at age 50, several media reports have indicate that an entertainment lawyer named John Branca has the singer’s will and plans to file it with the court.
Branca could not immediately be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff approved the appointment of 79- year-old Katherine Jackson as temporary guardian of her son’s children, based on papers submitted on her behalf by her lawyer, Diane M. Goodman.
Beckloff set another hearing for July 6 to address issues regarding the naming of a temporary guardian of the singer’s estate. He also ordered that notice of that hearing be provided to Deborah Rowe, the mother of two of the entertainer’s children, Prince Michael, 12, and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, 11.
The youngest child, Prince Michael II, 7, was born to a surrogate mother.
Observers predict that Rowe and the Jackson family could wage a protracted battle over whether the two older children will remain at their Encino compound or be turned over to Rowe.
Jackson family members say they have not heard from Rowe, a former nurse who met Jackson while working for a dermatologist who was treating the singer.
In a statement to KCAL9, Rowe’s attorney Marta Almli said her client “requests that Michael’s family, and particularly the children, be spared such harmful, sensationalist speculation and that they be able to say goodbye to their loved one in peace.”
After Rowe filed for divorce in October 1999, she purportedly gave up custody of her two children to Jackson two years later.
“These are his children,” Rowe stated during testimony before a private judge hearing her divorce and child custody case in October 2001. “I had the children for him. I did it for him to become a father, not for me to become a mother. You earn the title parent. I have done absolutely nothing to earn that title.”
Rowe was asked by her lawyer at the time, Iris Finsilver, if she would still feel the same way if something happened to Jackson.
“Have you ever considered the possibility if Michael should die, what would happen to the children?,” Finsilver asked.
“I’m sure … he has a wonderful person in mind to take care of them,” Rowe replied.
The judge, who originally approved Rowe’s decision to relinquish her custody rights, later reversed himself. And in a 2003 court declaration, Rowe said she would oppose an attempt by Katherine Jackson to assert rights to the boy and girl.
“In or about December 11, 2003, I heard that (Katherine Jackson) was going to adopt my children,” Rowe stated. “Through (Rowe’s lawyer) I immediately notified (Jackson’s) criminal counsel that I would never consent to such a thing.”
In her declaration regarding her change of heart, Rowe said she took a new look at matters after Jackson was charged with child molestation in Santa Barbara County in 2003.
“I believed that Michael was the most wonderful father in the world, based upon my observations with him and our children,” Rowe stated. “I have since reconsidered this decision due to … information that is provided to me.”
Rowe said in the declaration that Jackson seemed unconcerned about public opinion “as he continues to state that it is acceptable for him … to sleep in the same bed with children, which seems to be the epitome of poor judgment.”
Rowe further stated that although she did not spend time with her children during the intervening years, she had “pictures throughout my home and often reflected on the fabulous life they must have enjoyed with their father. I was always told that our children were treated like royalty and were very happy children.”
Rowe stated that she tried to contact Jackson during those years to talk about their offspring, “but he did not want to speak with me” and never returned any of her phone calls.
According to Rowe, she also was concerned about what she believed were Jackson’s “connections with the Nation of Islam and because of their attitudes toward white people and Jews in particular that I may never again see my children. Based upon what I have learned about the Nation of Islam, they do not like Jews, which causes me endless worry about our children.”
However, Rowe ended the declaration with support for Jackson in his pending criminal case, which ended with him acquitted of all charges in 2005.
“As to the accuracy of the criminal complaint, I continue to hope and believe that (Jackson) is innocent,” Rowe stated.