Law School Case Brief
Estate of Michael Joseph Jackson v. Branca - No. B220404, 2010 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8485 (Oct. 26, 2010)
Standing under section 48 is "a fluid concept." "Subdivision (a) provides a nonexclusive list of recognizable interests, providing the court with the authority to designate as an 'interested person' anyone having a property right in or claim against an estate which may be affected by the probate proceeding. On the other hand, section 48, subdivision (b) broadly permits the court to determine the sufficiency of a party's interest for the purposes of each proceeding conducted."
Michael Jackson was survived by his father, Joseph Jackson (Joseph), his mother, Katherine Jackson (Katherine) and his three children. John Brancaband John McClain filed a Petition for Probate of Will and Letters Testamentary. The will directed that Branca and McClain were to serve as executors of the Jackson estate, which was left entirely to the Michael Jackson Family Trust. The beneficiaries of the Trust included Jackson's children, his mother and various charities. In addition to the Petition for Probate of Will, Branca and McClain filed an ex parte petition seeking to replace Katherine as special administrator of the estate. The court set a trial setting conference date for Branca and McClain's appointment as executors and their Petition for Letters Testamentary. Joseph filed an objection to Branca and McClain's appointment as executors. Joseph argued that although he was not a beneficiary under Jackson's will, he nonetheless qualified as an "interested party" within the meaning of Probate Code section 48.
Did the probate court err in its conclusion that Jackson’s father was not an interested party within the meaning of Probate Code Section 48 and therefore had standing to object to the appointment of the executor?
Joseph argues that there are three reasons why he qualifies as an "interested party" under Section 48. First, Joseph contends that, as Jackson's father, he has a "priority for appointment as personal representative." (See § 48, subd. (a)(2).) Second, he contends that his petition for a family allowance constitutes either a "property right in" or "claim against" the estate. (See § 48, subd. (a)(3).) Third, Joseph argues that he is a beneficiary of the estate as the result of a wrongful death lawsuit that he filed six months after the probate court dismissed his objection. Joseph does not qualify for a priority appointment because he is not entitled to any portion of Jackson's estate. Joseph has not identified any scenario under which he would be entitled to a portion of Jackson's estate. Under the terms of Jackson's will, his entire estate is to go to the Michael Jackson Family Trust, of which Joseph is not a beneficiary. Joseph's request for a family allowance does not constitute "a property right in" or a "claim against" Jackson's estate under Section 48, subdivision (a). The plain language of subdivision (b) demonstrates that Joseph does not have "an 'entitlement' or 'right' to an allowance." the record demonstrates that Joseph never presented his wrongful death argument to the probate court. "It is fundamental that a reviewing court will not consider issues not raised in the trial court." Joseph has made no effort to show why he failed to present this argument at any point prior to the filing of his reply brief. His motion for judicial notice, which includes a copy of his wrongful death complaint, alleges that "Mr. Jackson's rights as a 'statutory beneficiary' of a wrongful death estate asset existed on November 10, 2009."
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