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Jackson's will challenge provides lessons for Kent residents

Kent residents are undoubtedly familiar with the music and public spectacle provided by Michael Jackson. Now, years after Jackson's death, ongoing disputes over his will offer Kent residents with an opportunity to learn about proper estate planning.

Jackson's family recently became embroiled in a dispute over the custody of Jackson's three children, among other issues. Jackson's will, which some family members allege to be fraudulent, provides that his mother retains custody over the late pop singer's children.

Typically, only those who are beneficiaries of a prior will, beneficiaries of a subsequent will or intestate heirs may challenge a will. This is because probate laws provide that only interested persons may bring a challenge for proper reasons under the law.

The problem for these family members is that in many states, like California where the will was executed, heirs only have 120 days after a will goes into probate to challenge its validity. Because this deadline has passed for Jackson's family members, Jackson's will became valid and virtually beyond legal challenge, absent any fraudulent concealment.

Aside from timing issues, Kent residents may take note of another issue brought forth by Jackson's will: the need to update a will regularly. In Jackson's case, he had not updated his will since 2002, and he died seven years later. This was notable because Jackson named his mother as guardian, despite her age.

While experts caution there was not necessarily any error in doing so, it still highlights the need to stay current in updating wills to meet present-day conditions. For instance, when individuals named in a will have since died, or there have been new additions to a family, individuals should ensure their will reflects these changes. People should also update their will regularly to stay current with changing laws and changing financial conditions. For these and other reasons, experts urge individuals to update their wills at least every three to five years.

Source: ABC News, "Michael Jackson Family Feud: Lessons for Wills and Trusts," Alan Farnham, July 30, 2012

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