Jackson estate to cover funeral costs

LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles Superior Court judge Wednesday cleared the way for payment of Michael Jackson’s funeral by his estate, which is set to take place today at Glendale Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Before doing so, Judge Mitchell Beckloff questioned whether John Branca and John McClain, the estate’s administrators, had the cash available to cover the funeral without affecting their ability to pay off creditors or other beneficiaries.

“I don’t know how many creditors’ claims there are out there,” Beckloff said. “I don’t know how much money there is in this estate. I don’t know that, given the size of the funeral costs, that the estate even has that money to pay, if it’s necessary, for this funeral tomorrow.”

Beckloff said that the administrators needed to exercise their “fiduciary obligation” to ensure the funeral costs — which the attorneys would not disclose — would not affect their ability to meet other financial responsibilities.

They will pay for services provided by Glendale police and city employees, which should cost no more than $150,000, Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

“Whatever they ask for, we will provide,” he said.

“But they have to pay for it. And they will.”

The bulk of the total Jackson funeral costs are expected to come from expenses associated with the Forest Lawn service.

Jeryll Cohen, an attorney for the Branca and McClain, assured Beckloff that “there are sufficient liquid assets now on hand” to pay for the funeral.

“The special administrators are willing to pay these expenses,” Cohen said.

“And let me say that the expenses are extraordinary. However, Michael Jackson was extraordinary and so the special administrators understand the need to have a burial and funeral that is equal in stature to Michael Jackson.”

Burt Levitch, an attorney for Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, questioned the need for the hearing because an agreement for payment was already in place between the two parties.

“It was a surprise,” Levitch said.

The price of the funeral is not substantial compared with the estate’s value, he added.

Beckloff’s order clears the way for the parties to move ahead with their agreement for Branca and McClain to use funds from the Michael Jackson estate to cover the funeral costs.

Glendale will not incur any expenses for the event, officials said.

Forest Lawn has already pulled permits for the funeral, which will require several street closures and Glendale Police assistance at the South Glendale Avenue cemetery entrance.

 ZAIN SHAUK covers education, business and politics. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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