Visit any estate planning website and you will see a long list of reasons why you should have a will or some form of estate plan. The death of Bobbi Kristina Brown, the daughter of the late Whitney Houston, illustrates several of those reasons.
First, a synopsis of the timeline and facts:
- Bobbi Kristina’s mother, Whitney Houston, was married to entertainer Bobby Brown;
- Whitney and Bobby divorced in 2007;
- Whitney Houston died in 2012 after drowning in a bathtub;
- Bobbi Kristina was found unconscious in a bathtub in earlier this year by Nick Gordon (who may or may not have been married to her) and died in July at the age of 22; and
- Gordon had been taken in as a teen and raised by Houston, but he was never legally adopted by her.
If you think that’s complicated, let’s bring in the other facts and players:
Whitney Houston had a will that was drafted shortly after her daughter’s birth which named Bobbi Kristina as sole heir to Houston’s estate which was worth millions when she died. The will disbursed money to Bobbi Kristina in installments: she had received 10 percent of the estate, about $2 million, when she turned 21. If Bobbi Kristina died with no children of her own and no will of her own, Houston’s estate would go to her Whitney’s surviving relatives.
At the time of Bobbi Kristina’s death, Houston’s surviving relatives include her mother, Cissy Houston and two brothers. Pat Houston, who is Bobbi Kristina’s aunt, is the executor of Whitney’s estate. But she and Bobby Brown were co-guardians of Bobbi Kristina during her coma.
Under the law of the state where Bobbi Kristina was a resident when she died, two other complications arise since she died without beneficiary designations in a will. First, if she WAS legally married to Nick Gordon, he would be awarded 100 percent of her estate (although he is under some suspicion of causing her death, which would negate his inheritance). And, if she wasn’t married and didn’t have a will and had assets in her name, Bobby Brown, as her closest blood relative, would inherit her estate (which is essentially his ex-wife’s estate).
Every state’s probate law is different, so the Houston-Brown issues could be different in Minnesota. But the complexity could be the same. The advice of an estate planning attorney can help avoid this conundrum.
Source: NJ.com, “Bobbi Kristina Brown death: Who will inherit Whitney Houston’s estate?,” Janelle Griffith, Aug. 5, 2015