July 1, 2009 -- Jackson's will was filed in a Los Angeles courthouse Wednesday, giving custody of his three young children to their 79-year-old grandmother and cutting out his ex-wife Debbie Rowe.
The entire estate will be placed in a trust to be executed by three trusted advisors, the specifics of which may never be made public.
Jackson gave custody of his three children, two sons and a daughter aged 7 to 12, to his mother Katherine Jackson. In the will Jackson specified that if his mother died before he did, then singer and longtime Jackson friend Diana Ross would gain custody of the children.
The specifics of how Jackson wanted his estate to be distributed are not included in the 2002 will, but in a separate document overseeing the trust. Jackson mentions his three children by name, but none of the other members of his family are named as beneficiaries.
The will specifies that Debbie Rowe, Jackson's ex-wife, and mother of his first two children has been "intentionally omitted" from receiving anything.
Jackson, 50, who died June 25 of an apparent cardiac arrest in Los Angeles, named John Branca, his attorney, John McLain, a friend and record executive, and Barry Siegel, his accountant, as executors of the Michael Jackson Family Trust.
In 2003 Siegel resigned from his role as trustee, according to a statement issued on behalf of the named trustees.
The documents said Jackson's estate consisted almost entirely of "non-cash, non-liquid assets, including primarily an interest in a catalogue of music royalty rights which is currently being administered by Sony ATV, and the interests of various entities."
Jackson had $567.6 million in assets, including his Neverland Ranch and his share of the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalog, which includes the rights to songs by the Beatles, according to the AP.
The AP analysis puts a net value on Jackson's 50 percent stake in the Sony/ATV catalog — his most prized asset — at $390.6 million. The 750,000-song catalog also includes music by Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Lady Gaga and the Jonas Brothers.
By putting the specifics of how he wanted his estate distributed in a trust rather than in the will itself allowed Jackson's wishes to remain private, lawyers said.
"Celebrities typically establish living trusts to avoid probate, which is a very public process," said Andy Katzenstein, a Los Angeles-based estate lawyer.
"In a trust you, the odds are it will never be made public and we'll never what was in it. The will, on the other hand, has to be made public," Katzenstein said.
The will does not specify how Jackson wanted to be laid to rest, fueling speculation about where Jackson might be buried.
A family spokesman Wednesday quashed a rumor that Jackson would be laid in state and possibly buried at Neverland Ranch.
"Contrary to previous news reports, the Jackson family is officially stating that there will be no public or private viewing at Neverland. Plans are underway regarding a public memorial for Michael Jackson, and we will announce those plans shortly," the statement read.
Jackson's three children Michael Joseph Jr., 12; Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, 11; and Prince Michael Jackson, II, 7, known as Blanket, have been staying with their grandmother Katherine at the family compound in Encino, Calif., since Jackson's death last week.
Michael's father Joe Jackson was not named as a custodian of the children, but is married to Katherine and will therefore become a de facto guardian. Jackson regularly said in interviews that his father Joe had abused him as a child. Joe and Katherine remain married but are believed to be separated, with Joe spending much of his time living in Las Vegas.
On Monday, a California judge granted Katherine Jackson temporary guardianship of her grandchildren.
Jackson and Rowe, mother of Jackson's two oldest children, were briefly married following their son's Prince's conception 12 years ago, but divorced six months after daughter Paris' birth. Rowe gave Jackson custody of the children, but sued him in 2006 for breach of contract in an attempt to regain custody. The pair settled out of court for undisclosed terms and Jackson retained custody.
Despite reports that Rowe has not been close to the family for more than a decade and may not be biological mother of any of the children, she would still have "an advantage" should she seek custody, lawyer Gloria Allred told "Good Morning America," despite the will's naming of Katherine as sole custodian.
Rowe reportedly signed away her parental rights to the children after the divorce, but in 2006 an appeals court reestablished her parental status.
"Katherine would have to show it would be detrimental [to the kids for Rowe to have custody]. That's a very heavy burden," Allred said.