Bobbi Kristina, the daughter of legendary singer and actress Whitney Houston, finally lost her battle to survive in July after being on life support since January. Her tragic death has left more questions than answers ranging from how she ended up unconscious in her bathtub to who will inherit what is left of Whitney’s fortune now. Many experts speculate that money was at the center of Bobbi Kristina’s untimely and early death, leading to the question “Could Whitney Houston’s estate plan have protected Bobbi Kristina?”
Bobbi Kristina was the only child of the tumultuous marriage between Whitney Houston and singer Bobby Brown. That made Bobbi the heir apparent when her mother was found dead in a bathtub almost three years to the day before Bobbi herself was found unconscious in a bathtub. Houston did leave behind a Last Will and Testament; however, it was executed back in 1984, long before Bobbi Kristina was born, and was never revised or updated. The Will apparently created a testamentary trust that gave Bobbi Kristina a lump sum of money when she turned 21 with another, larger, sum due to her when she turned 25. Though Whitney left behind more debts than assets when she died, sales of her music and movies skyrocketed after her death with the proceeds covering her debts and netting an estimated $20 million – all of which would have gone to Bobbi Kristina eventually.
Relatives were concerned from the beginning that handing Bobbi Kristina a large sum of money was not only dangerous, but not what Whitney would have intended. Unfortunately, a probate court cannot guess at the intentions of a Testator. Instead, the court must enforce the terms of the Will as they are written absent a showing that the Testator was of unsound mind, unduly influenced, or the Will is otherwise invalid.
After Bobbi Kristina was found unconscious she was put into a medical induced coma having suffered severe brain damage. How she ended up that way remains under investigation; however, a lawsuit against her “boyfriend” has been filed by her conservator alleging everything from physical violence to theft and fraud – all of which appears to be motivated by Bobbi Kristina’s inheritance.
It seems clear that better estate planning could have protected Bobbi Kristina from becoming the target of those who wanted her money. Few 21 year olds are emotionally and financially prepared to handle a large sum of money well. That’s why trusts are so often used to dole out an inheritance sparingly, and then only after the Trustee has approved the disbursements.
If you have a significant estate to leave behind, and have minor children, it is crucial that you create an estate plan that will protect them both from themselves and from those who will prey on them. Contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.