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Michael Jackson's mother wins temporary control of estate

By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson's mother Katherine on Monday won temporary guardianship of the late singer's children and control of his estate as a legal battle over his kids, money and belongings began to take shape.

Katherine Jackson won the first round in what could become a protracted fight over an estate estimated to be valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Attorney L. Londell McMillan, who said he was Katherine Jackson's legal counsel, issued a statement late on Monday saying the family was pleased with the judge's rulings. It is unclear if Jackson drew up a will before he died.

Questions about the singer's health prior to his death resurfaced Monday when Celebrity Website TMZ.com reported that Los Angeles County coroner officials returned to Jackson's rented home looking for more medication.

Four days after the singer's death from cardiac arrest, his father, Joe Jackson said the family was awaiting results of a second, private autopsy, and he expected to get details "real soon." He said funeral arrangements had not been made.

"We don't have a timeframe for that (the funeral) because I want to see how this autopsy is coming out," Jackson said after a family meeting at his home in suburban Los Angeles.

Two autopsies have been carried out on Jackson's body, one by the coroner's office and a second by a private pathologist. Speculation about what caused Jackson's heart to stop has centered on his prescription drug use, but toxicology tests are expected to take several more weeks.

The pop star died on Thursday at his rented Los Angeles home, days before kicking off a string of concerts in London that were designed to revive a career grounded by his 2005 trial and acquittal on child molestation charges.

On Monday, promoters AEG Live released pictures from a dress rehearsal two days before Jackson's death. Jackson looks thin, but much like his typical singing and dancing self. AEG Live declined to comment on reports it had video footage of the rehearsals that could be released on DVD.

JACKSON'S MOM WINS TEMPORARY CONTROL

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Monday approved the appointment of Katherine Jackson as temporary guardian of Prince Michael, 12, Paris Katherine, 11, and Prince Michael II, 7, pending a hearing next week.

Katherine Jackson was also named "special administrator" of her son's estate until a July 6 hearing, but the court order stipulated that she was not to take possession of money or property, except as permitted by the court.

In her court filing, Katherine Jackson said she was seeking control of funds "for the exclusive use of the decedent's children" and was concerned about bank accounts controlled by unnamed "third parties."

Jackson was reported to be as much as $500 million in debt when he died, but his estate has been estimated at $1 billion or more and is likely to rise following his death. Court papers list the value of the estate as "unknown."

His two eldest children were from his marriage to Debbie Rowe and the third is from an unidentified surrogate mother. In court papers, Katherine Jackson said the children had "no relationship with their biological mother," and it was unclear whether Rowe would also seek custody of the kids.

"Whoever has ultimate custody of these children, who are probably going to be the beneficiaries of his estate, will get control of his money to care for the children. So to that extent, whoever the permanent guardian will be will have tremendous sums of money to take care of the children," entertainment attorney Jerry Reisman told Reuters.

Jackson's court filing indicated the "Thriller" singer died without a will, but media reports said a former Jackson lawyer, John Branca, possessed a will signed by the pop star. Branca did not return calls on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles coroner's office dismissed as inaccurate a Monday report in Britain's Sun newspaper that said Jackson was almost bald, emaciated and that his hips, thighs and shoulders were riddled with needle wounds when he died.

Assistant chief coroner Ed Winter said the details did not come from the private or county autopsies. "I don't know where that information came from, or who that information came from. It is not accurate. Some of it is totally false," he said.

(Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb, editing by Anthony Boadle)

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