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Lessons from Whitney Houston’s Will and Bobbi Kristina’s Death

 

The tragic death of Bobbi Kristina, Whitney Houston’s only child, has left her estate in limbo.

Houston’s will left the entirety of her estate, including jewelry, clothing, cars, record profits and music royalties, in a spendthrift trust to the sole heir, Bobbi Kristina. The provisions of this trust stated that Bobbi Kristina would receive the distributions in three installments: 1/10 at age 21, 1/6 to be received at age 25, and the remainder of the estate upon her turning 30. Based on these provisions, Bobbi Kristina was only entitled to 1/10 of the estate when she died since she was only 22 years old at the time of her passing.

Houston’s will also stated, “If no child of mine survives me: I give all jewelry I own at my death to my mother, Emily Cissy Houston, if she survives me; and I give the rest of my tangible personal property to those of my mother, Emily Cissy Houston, my father, John R. Houston, my husband, Robert Brown, my brother Michael Houston, and my brother Gary Houston, as survive me to be amicably divided among them as they might agree, in shares as nearly equal as possible.” Since Houston’s father passed in 2003 and she was divorced from Brown in 2006, her mother and two brothers stand to inherit the remainder of the estate.

However, what will happen to the 1/10 (estimated $2 million) that Bobbi Kristina inherited?      

As is usually the case with sizable estates, the likelihood of a messy legal battle is almost inevitable. Although Bobby Brown no longer stands to inherit the remaining 9/10 of Houston’s estate, as Bobbi Kristina’s next of kin, he is the sole beneficiary of her estate, which includes the 1/10 from Houston’s estate; this is unless Bobbi Kristina left a will dictating otherwise.

So, what’s the problem?

Complicating matters is Bobbi Kristina’s boyfriend, Nick Gordon. Bobbi Kristina had referred to Gordon as her husband on various social media sites. If Gordon can produce a marriage certificate, he is entitled to his share of Bobbi Kristina’s estate.

To further complicate matters, Bobbi Kristina’s court-appointed conservator, Bedelia Hargrove, filed a lawsuit against Gordon. Allegations against him include claims that Gordon was transferring funds from Bobbi Kristina’s account and that he engaged in domestic violence, causing the injuries that ultimately led to her death.

How could Houston have further protected her daughter?

Houston’s will was executed in 1993, specifying how a trust would be created after she died for any children she may have. Houston never updated her will and is not believed to have ever created a living trust document, such as a family protection trust to protect Bobbi Kristina against situations such as the one between her and Gordon.

What have we learned?

Not only is making sure you have a Last Will and Testament imperative, it is important to update your legal documents to make sure they comply with your current wishes and circumstances.

Make sure to contact an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure you and your loved one are protected. Please share your questions or comments below.

Marissa Kleiner
Vincent J. Russo & Associates, P.C.
1600 Stewart Avenue, Suite 300
Westbury, NY 11590
800-680-1717

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