The untimely death of the world’s greatest musical superstar has triggered a scramble to discover the true state of Michael Jackson’s assets, and what will be done with the looming debt that surrounded him.

Jackson’s life was an extraordinary commercial success.

During his career, there was an estimated 750 million singles and albums sold throughout the world, including more than 100 million copies of Thriller, the world's best-selling album.

His first 20 years as an artist also followed the arc of the modern music industry, starting with Motown records at its height, and cashing in through the lucrative introduction of the compact disc.

But an extravagant lifestyle and mounting legal problems ate away at his wealth. In 1999 his personal expenses and the cost of maintaining his Neverland mansion were $12.5m, according to a 2003 court documents.

On Friday, one business partner challenged reports that his debts could amount to $500m.

Still, Mr. Jackson was making approximately $19 million a year at the time of his death, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal, with around $12 million coming from album sales and $7 million generated by his stake in Sony/ATV.

The singer may have been able to pay off his debts by selling assets and cutting back on expenses. Recently his Neverland ranch was put up for sale. And as the half-owner of a joint-venture in Sony ATV Music Publishing with Sony, it is estimated his stake is worth nearly $2 billion.

Though he had significant sources of revenue, they were not enough to maintain his lifestyle and stabilize his finances, pushing him accept the grueling 50 performance tour in London that would have began next month. The O2 Arena venue would have netted him an estimated $50m-$100m.

It is also unclear what will happen to his estate. At one point, according to people familiar with his plans, he had intended to divide his estate among his three children and his mother. It is unclear if that arrangement was subsequently amended.

The degree to which his assets exceed his towering liabilities – if at all – could take months to determine.