UPDATE: E! News has exclusively learned that after taking the three children for a visit at Uncle Tito's SoCal home, Katherine Jackson has taken them to Uncle Jermaine's nearby estate, presumably to play with their cousins. Jermaine has six children, including two under 13.
A thriller of a court battle is shaping up over custody of Michael Jackson's three kids and control of his estate.
Jackson's mother, Katherine, today was granted limited access to some of her son's property, as well as temporary custody of his three children: 12-year-old Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. (aka Prince Michael), 11-year-old Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson and 7-year-old Prince Michael Jackson II (aka Blanket). The three children have been in Katherine's care since Michael's sudden death last Thursday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff made the ruling shortly after the Jackson matriarch filed paperwork. Beckloff set a hearing for July 6 on whether to grant her permanent custody and to address naming a temporary guardian of Michael's estate.
(View Katherine Jackson's custody petition)
Amid confusion over whether he had a valid will, Beckloff also allowed Katherine to take possession of some of the singer's personal property, which is currently in the hands of an unidentified third party.
L. Londell McMillan, the attorney representing Katherine, 79, and Joe Jackson, 80, appeared on NBC's Today this morning to state the Jackson family's case.
"[Katherine] presently has custody. I don't think there will be anybody who thinks that there would be someone better," said McMillan. "She is a very loving host of other grandchildren."
While Blanket was delivered by an unidentified surrogate, the two oldest children were born to Michael and former wife Debbie Rowe, who would be in a better position to assume guardianship under state law—if she decided to challenge the Jackson family.
Rowe, the mother of Prince Michael I and Paris, petitioned in 2001 to waive her parental rights after her divorce from the music legend, but then sought to get them back following his 2005 child-molestation trial. A judge reinstated her rights, though Jackson retained custody after giving her a fat paycheck for her troubles.
McMillan said that Rowe has not informed the family of her desires and that he has no idea whether she would "do anything to uproot the best interest of these children."
The former nurse, whom Michael Jackson met at his dermatologist's office, has not yet indicated whether she will seek guardianship. In her only public remarks, she asked for privacy as the family mourns.
"Ms. Rowe's only thoughts at this time have been regarding the devastating loss Michael's family has suffered," Rowe attorney Marta Almli said in the statement. "Ms. Rowe requests that Michael's family, and particularly the children, be spared such harmful, sensationalist speculation and that they be able to say goodbye to their loved one in peace."
Meanwhile, McMillan also dropped the bombshell that Michael apparently did not have a will.
Despite Joe's proclamation at last night's BET Awards that he and Katherine have "personal and legal authority" to act on behalf of their late son's estate, the legal implications are more complicated.
Per California state law, Michael's assets would be equally divided among his three children and likely overseen by a court-appointed conservator.
(Originally published June 29, 2009, at 9:15 a.m. PT)