Michael Jackson’s mother fired the lawyers helping her fight for control of her son’s estate, but her new lawyer missed a key hearing where the judge gave more power to the men she is opposing.
Katherine Jackson replaced lawyers Burt Levitch and Londell McMillan with Adam Streisand, a lawyer known for his expertise in Los Angeles probate cases. “The family came to a decision before they called me,” Streisand said. “They felt they needed a different perspective and fresh look at how this case was being approached.” But Streisand arrived at court Thursday minutes after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff ended a hearing in which he granted a request from estate special administrators John Branca and John McClain for more authority to make deals on behalf of Jackson’s estate. “I want this estate to move forward and I want these creditors to be dealt with,” Beckloff said. “And while we are proceeding in this posture, I want Mrs. Jackson to have information about what is going on and I don’t want to be in court all the time.” The process of probate of Jackson’s will, which named Branca and McClain as executors, has been slowed since soon after the pop star’s June 25 death by numerous legal challenges filed by Katherine Jackson’s lawyers, led by Levitch. Howard Weitzman, lead lawyer for the estate’s administrators, expressed optimism that the two sides would be able to work better toward a settlement with Streisand in charge. The estate’s administrators were able to make a series of deals expected to bring in at least $100 million to the estate this year, mostly through a documentary movie that premieres next week. Katherine Jackson’s legal team has asked that a member of the Jackson family “have a seat at the table” as a third executor. They’ve also raised questions in sealed court papers about possible conflicts of interest that might prevent Branca and McClain from controlling the estate. Streisand said the Jackson family was frustrated with the inability “to get this case going.” He indicated Katherine Jackson still planned to challenge Branca and McClain’s control of her son’s wealth. Under the 2002 will, Michael Jackson’s three children and his mother are the chief beneficiaries of his estate, while unnamed charities will share in 20 percent of the wealth. Streisand said when he met with Katherine Jackson and the children to discuss the case, they were united. He said Jackson patriarch Joe Jackson was not present at the meeting and he’s never talked with him. Joe Jackson appeared frustrated earlier this month when he attended his first hearing in the probate process, suggesting the lawyers should be more aggressive in court. Streisand said the three Jackson children are doing “absolutely wonderful.”