Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff determined in a ruling released Friday that Michael Jackson's mother can argue against keeping the men currently administering her son's estate without being disinherited.
Jackson's mother had sought a favorable ruling from Beckloff that she could contest the authority of attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain to guide the pop singer's fortune. The men were named executors of the estate, which could be worth more than $500 million, in Michael Jackson's 2002 will.
Beckloff's ruling clears the way for further arguments and possibly a hearing on whether the men were best suited to control the Jackson's considerable estate. The pair have already brokered deals for a movie, books, museum show and various memorabilia that are expected to generate tens of millions of dollars.
Katherine Jackson's legal team, however, has sought to challenge one or both of the men's authority. A key roadblock was whether a challenge would be deemed a contest to Michael Jackson's will. A provision of the singer's private trust
- which calls for his mother to receive 40 percent of his assets - calls for anyone that challenges the will to be disinherited.
"We now hope to resolve the outstanding administration matter, without further costly litigation, in the best interests of the beneficiaries which are Mrs. Jackson and her grandchildren," Katherine Jackson's attorney, L. Londell McMillan wrote in a written statement after Beckloff's ruling.
He noted that although Katherine Jackson was pleased with the ruling, she continues to mourn her son, who was interred earlier this month at a private cemetery in Glendale, Calif.
Most of Katherine Jackson's arguments for why she should be allowed to challenge Branca and McClain's authority have been sealed, but Beckloff noted in his ruling that they raised several issues, including whether Michael Jackson was under "undue influence" when he signed his 2002 will.
Katherine Jackson's attorneys may challenge Branca or McClain's fitness as administrators of the estate, or they may seek a member of Jackson's family or trusted adviser to become a co-administrator. Katherine Jackson's attorneys have noted that her son chose to have three men serve as executors of his estate, although one dropped out after the singer's will was signed.
Attorneys for Branca and McClain did not challenge Katherine Jackson's petition for a ruling. If her attorneys were to opt to formally challenge the authority of one or both of the men, then Beckloff would convene a hearing and hear testimony.