Family: Where there's a will... there's affray

When Michael Jackson's siblings start squabbling over his estate you know it's bad (really, really bad)

I've neve owned a pet chimpanzee so my reserves of empathy are perhaps limited, but this is turning into a vintage week for connoisseurs of the knockabout soap opera that is Michael Jackson's familial legacy. Tuesday saw police called to the home of the late singer's mother, Katherine, amid claims of an incident of "battery". Several relatives had become involved in a confrontation, which – to this reporter, at least – resembles a Scouse wedding, as scripted by Harry Enfield, sometime in the early 1990s.

It began when three Jackson siblings –Jermaine, Janet, and Randy – drove on to the property, in a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles. According to multiple reports, they announced that they intended to leave with Michael's orphaned children, who have lived there since his death in 2009. When guards intervened, a scuffle ensued. The tabloid website TMZ, which carried a video recording of its early stages, claimed that Janet Jackson, who is 46, exchanged "bitch slaps" with Michael's daughter, Paris, while Trent Jackson, a cousin who lives on the property, "put Randy in a headlock and punched Jermaine in the mouth". As Mr Enfield's poodle-haired Liverpudlians might say: "Calm down! Calm down! Calm down!"

No charges or arrests were forthcoming. But the fisticuffs represent a signal escalation in a long-running – and, some might say, sordid – feud that, one way or another, seems destined to end up in court.

At its root is money. More specifically, the King of Pop's estate, which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and at present is controlled by two Los Angeles lawyers, John Branca and John McClain. When Jackson died, he left all his earthy goods (aside from a portion bequeathed to charities) to a trust administered by the two attorneys. He stipulated that it should benefit his mother, Katherine, and three children: Prince Michael, who is now 15; Paris, 14; and Prince Michael II, a 10-year-old nicknamed "Blanket".

Jackson's seven brothers and sisters were frozen out, as was his father, Joe. Several of them promptly launched legal bids to have the will overturned because, according to Randy Jackson, they believe Michael's will to be: "a fake".

Those long-running hostilities escalated last week, when five of the siblings – Jermaine, Janet, Randy, Rebbie and Tito – wrote to Branca and McClain accusing them of overcharging for administering the estate. Their letter was promptly leaked.

On Sunday, it then emerged that Jackson's children hadn't seen Katherine (their supposed guardian) in eight days. Hours after they filed a "missing person" report she turned-up in Arizona, at the home of her eldest daughter, Rebbie.

Rumours then began to circulate that the "rebel" siblings are attempting to have Katherine, who is 82, declared "infirm" in an effort to gain control of the $45,000 (£30,000) monthly allowance she receives from Branca and McClain for looking after her grandchildren.

It's a stupendously ugly business, all told, in which three young orphans have been cast in the role of innocent victims.

Meanwhile, the four surviving members of the Jackson Five recently began a series of US concerts. With either a keen sense of irony, or a flagrant disregard for reality, they are calling it: "The Unity Tour."

The other estate disputes

Howard Hughes Having failed to make a will, it took 34 years to settle Howard Hughes's estate after his death in 1976.

J Howard Marshall After the oil tycoon died in 1995, his wife of 14 months, Anna Nicole Smith, and his son, E Pierce, both claimed his $1.6bn estate. Despite both having died since, the battle goes on.

Aaron Spelling Tori Spelling, daughter of the television producer who died in 2006, claimed she was being cut out of her father's $500m estate. Allegedly she received just $800,000.

James Brown Brown's estate has been the subject of court battles since his death in 2006. His last wife and son were not included while two former trustees say they were ousted from control by the family.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future