Whitney Houston Estate Plan

When A Sole Heir Dies: The Gaps In Whitney Houston’s Estate Plan

Whitney Houston Estate Plan, a story on errors and costly mistakes. For many parents, creating an Estate Plan is one of the most important things they can do to ensure their family’s financial and emotional well-being, and to give themselves peace of mind knowing that their wishes will be carried out in the way they intended. However, as with life, Estate Planning is a journey. An Estate Plan must be updated as necessary to reflect any major changes in their own and their loved one’s lives.

When Whitney Houston divorced Bobby Brown in 2006, she became a single mom to daughter Bobbi Kristina (“Krissi”). In her Will, which was drafted the year her daughter was born, she named her daughter as the sole heir to her estate, estimated to be worth $20 Million at the time of her death in 2012.

Three years later, Bobbi Kristina was found unresponsive in a bathtub in an eerily similar fashion to Whitney’s death – face down in the water with drugs in her system. She spent six months in a coma before eventually succumbing to pneumonia resulting from “drug intoxication” and water immersion.

Growing up, Krissi witnessed her parent’s tumultuous marriage and substance abuse. The 2018 documentary Whitney also showed footage of Krissi at an unknown age hunched over an iPad snorting a powdery substance. After Whitney died, Krissi began dating Nick Gordon, whom she had grown up with but was never formally adopted (there were speculations of marriage, but the engagement was broken off). Nick told Dr. Phil in an interview that before her mother’s death, Krissi had used drugs “socially” and admitted that they “smoked” together at parties. Sources later said her drug use worsened after her mother’s death and that she was “in and out” of rehab over the next three years.

Whitney’s Will left most of her assets in a Trust for Krissy with stipulations for how her daughter would receive the money – 10% at age 21, 30% at age 25, and the remainder at age 30. However, receiving too much wealth too soon could have had a profound negative effect on Bobbi Kristina’s spending habits – especially if she had been surrounded by less-than-favorable influences – possibly leading to her untimely death at the age of 22.

It’s important to note that Whitney’s Estate Plan hadn’t been updated in almost 2 decades – since Krissi was born. Given Krissi’s circumstances growing up and the life choices she made, Whitney could have updated her Estate Plan to devise a different distribution scheme to protect her daughter from herself – including putting in provisions regarding distributions if the child is abusing drugs.

While the legendary singer did name remote contingent heirs should her daughter die childless – her estate will go to her mother and two brothers – Krissi did not have a Will or an Estate Plan of her own. During her incapacity, both sides of Krissi’s family were in constant conflict over her care and her estate.

As Krissi’s next of kin, Bobby Brown could have laid claim to assets his daughter inherited. He filed for guardianship of her estate while she was in a coma – the judge ruled for Bobby and Whitney’s sister-in-law, Patricia Houston, to be Krissi’s co-guardians jointly responsible for “decisions related to Krissi’s care and medical needs.” The judge also named Bedelia Hargrove as Krissi’s conservator with responsibilities over her assets, including her likeness, rights, and legal claims.

After Krissi passed away, most of the inheritance she received had been spent on her medical and hospice bills. The remainder of Whitney’s estate went to her remote contingent beneficiaries. 

If Krissi had an Estate Plan, it would have been a useful tool to avoid family chaos when she became incapacitated and after her death.  She could have named the person whom she would want to make medical decisions for her in case of incapacity, outlined her wishes on how her estate should be distributed, and more.

Estate Planning is a difficult and emotional process, but one that is done out of love and a desire to provide for their loved ones even after they’re gone. Whitney took the first step with creating an Estate Plan to ensure that her daughter would be provided for, but failed to update her plan to add provisions to be able to better guide her daughter through life. Despite coming into a sizeable inheritance, Krissi did not create an Estate Plan of her own to protect and secure her assets and plan for her well-being.

It’s never too early to begin Estate Planning. Let the Law Office of Antoinette Bone, PLLC guide you through the various considerations of your situation and help you determine the right strategies to achieve your goals. Call our office today at (682) 428-3046 to request an appointment. Our experienced attorneys will be glad to help ensure that your Estate Plan will work for you and your family exactly as you intend.   

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