No Neverland Memorial for Michael Jackson

Jackson Spokesman Ends Days of Speculation, Quashes Rumor of Neverland Memorial

ByABC News
July 1, 2009, 12:37 PM

July 1, 2009— -- Michael Jackson's body will not be laid in state at the home he lived in for over a decade and which became synonymous with the singer's eccentricities -- Neverland Ranch.

Ending days of speculation about where the memorial service would be held for the pop icon, who died June 25 of an apparent cardiac arrest, a Jackson family spokesman said the singer would not be memorialized at 2,800-acre compound.

"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," said Jackson family spokesman Ken Sunshine in a statement.

Sources have told ABC News that the memorial will be in Los Angeles next week, possibly at the Staples Center. Today's statement included no details about the location or date of the event.

Workers were recently seen at the ranch, outside Santa Barbara, Calif., cleaning up and draining a pond, leading observers to speculate Jackson might be memorialized there.

Jackson died at a rental home in Los Angeles. With use of drug and other powerful painkillers swirling around his death, ABC News has learned that the Drug Enforcement Administration has been asked by police to join the investigation.

Jackson lived in Neverland from 1988 until 2005. He left following his acquittal in a child molestation trial, saying the property -- once replete with a zoo and amusement park -- no longer felt like home.

Jackson specified no plans for a funeral or wishes for his remains in his 2002 last will, filed in a Los Angeles court Wednesday.

Jackson did, however, specify that custody of his three young children would be granted to his 79-year-old mother and cut out from his will his ex-wife Debbie Rowe.

Jackson's 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.