Legal lesson in MJ death

July 8, 2009
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I know, I know, there’s been non-stop news coverage of the death of Michael Jackson since June 25, and the last place you’d expect to read more about him is here. But I think there is a legal lesson to be learned from his death if you’ll just hear me out – the importance of wills.

For a few days, there was talk that Jackson didn’t have a will. Turns out, he had one prepared back in 2002. My thought when hearing these discussions: Maybe this will make people following this saga create or update their wills. (Does this mean I’m starting to think like a lawyer if that’s what I immediately think about when watching the coverage?)

For some reason, when celebrities do certain things or when they die, it affects some people more profoundly and personally than if the same thing happened to a non-celebrity. Because these celebrities are on our TVs each week, on the big screen, or playing on our radios, some feel a connection to them that they may not have with neighbors or family. Let’s face it – celebrities are influential and perhaps Jackson can influence people to make a will.

I do think if he hadn’t had a will, it would be even more influential on people because the talking heads would have picked this apart and spent days, weeks, or even months talking about it as Jackson’s affairs were settled.

We, as the general public, know wills are important but the thought of actually creating one (and paying a lawyer to help make one) can be daunting and overwhelming. People put it off because creating a will signifies dealing with your mortality. Although we know we won’t live forever, no one likes to think about actually dying.

Some people have wills, but then never update them. Life happens after you create the will – you make more money, get married, get divorced, have children, etc. Perhaps what you wanted to leave to your brother before you had children you’d now rather leave to your son. Things like that.

I imagine most people watching the news and memorial service are just trying to remember a great entertainer who had a major impact on the world, but maybe a few will remember to update their wills or find a lawyer to make one.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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