Famous singer, Whitney Houston, was 48 years old when she drowned in her bathtub.Three years later, her daughter Bobbi Kristina appears to have died the same way, but at age 22.
The question is whether the estate plan could have been better drafted to offer more parental support to her daughter and possibly helped avoid her death? Whitney Houston’s will (download below) was over 19 years old at the time she died and left everything to her daughter in stages: 10% at 21, 30% at 25 and the rest upon turning 30. Her estate is estimated to be 20 million and growing due to music royalties.
It’s hard to imagine how such a wealthy and famous person could have written a simple will instead of a revocable trust. Her will is now in probate in Atlanta, Georgia, and will be a public process for the world to read every detail. Probate court also creates a forum for family members to fight about things they disagree with. The final beneficiaries are Whitney’s parents, spouse and brothers, a total of 5 people.
Whitney had previously spent years in probate court suing her step-mother over her father’s life insurance due to his failure to name a beneficiary. She won in the end.
After Whitney died, family members tried to get the court to change the terms of her will to better protect her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, from having too much money too fast. They failed. However, her daughter may have paid a huge price –with her life — following in her mother’s footstep.
Instead, Whitney could have written a revocable trust to avoid the negative side effects of probate court and to better protect her daughter. She could have included more discretion for the trustee to choose NOT to distribute large lump sums until Bobbi Kristina was older. The trust could have protected Bobbi Kristina from future creditors and divorces. It did not even protect her privacy.
Poor estate planning plus great wealth plus family squabbles is a recipe for disaster. Good estate planning can help prevent family squabbles, protect wealth for generations and even parent from the grave. We don’t have to be wealthy to have that kind of peace of mind. We can create our own high quality living trusts at www.YourLegacyLives.com.