Michael Jackson estate is the subject of estate litigation

The estate of the late Michael Jackson is currently the subject of a lawsuit related to an incomplete film about the musician. It stems from a deal made by Michael Jackson and movie director Raju Patel to create a film following child molestation allegations against Michael Jackson. The contract was allegedly signed some time in 2005, approximately three months before Raju Patel passed away from cancer. Before passing away, Raju Patel allegedly assigned the contract to his father Sharad Chandra Patel. The father is now suing the Michael Jackson estate for preventing him from completing the film.

It is alleged that Michael Jackson estate executors John Branca and John McClain have dismissed attempts by Sharad to access Michael Jackson’s music to complete the film. It seems that it cannot be completed without certain materials that Sharad cannot access. None of the above allegations have been proven in Court. The original story is found here.

The above scenario illustrates some of the issues that may come up as a result of the sudden passing of an individual involved in business contracts with other parties. Whenever entering into a business contract of any kind, it is important to consider the possibility that either side may not be able to complete their end of the bargain due to premature death. This is especially true if the contract pertains to something of the magnitude of a movie. If the parties involved are individuals, they should include specific instructions as to what should be done by the executors of either estate if either individual passes away before the project is complete. Purchase of insurance should also be considered. It is not clear if there were such instructions in place for the executors of the Michael Jackson estate in relation to the movie project with Raju Patel. This matter is further complicated by the fact that the contract was allegedly assigned to Raju’s father, Sharad before his son passed away. Michael Jackson passed away on June 25, 2009.

It is important to note that even if there were instructions in the above scenario, the estate executors may act to block the completion of the project. Again, it’s not clear if John Branca and John McClain have actually taken steps to block Sharad Chandra Patel as none of the allegations have been proven in Court. ¬†Estate executors have specific duties to the estate and to the beneficiaries of the estate to preserve the estate. If they fail to fulfil these duties, they may be personally liable and exposed to litigation. It is possible that allowing Sharad Chandra Patel access to the materials in question would negatively impact the Michael Jackson estate in some way, and the executors are therefore taking steps to prevent the completion of the film and to protect interests of beneficiaries. Therefore, speculating about the reasons behind the alleged behaviour of the estate executors is not appropriate given the above scenario.

It seems likely that the parties involved in this dispute will at some point attempt to settle the matter out of Court. Estate litigation can be costly.  The movie Sharad Chandra Patel is attempting to complete may be delayed even more. The initial contract for the movie was allegedly signed over 10 years ago. It will be interesting to see what happens in this lawsuit.

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