Mar 28, 2012

Whitney's world unveiled in death

The toxicology report has been released: Now the entire world knows what happened to megastar Whitney Houston in that Beverly Hills hotel room on Feb. 11. And with the late singer's reliance on a Will as her estate planning vehicle, her family's privacy is further eroded. Why someone with her celebrity and financial status would go that estate planning route is perplexing. 

A Will must be filed with the Probate Court. So on March 6, the late singer's 19-page Will was filed in the Fulton County, Georgia Probate Court, and became part of the public record. Houston's Will establishes a Trust upon her death. That Trust, called a Testamentary Trust, is for the sole benefit of Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina, age 19. Houston's brother and sister-in-law are Trustees. Bobbi Kristina will get her inheritance in stages, with the balance of whatever is in the Trust released to her on her 30th birthday. The Trustees may also provide monies to her for expenses like tuition, establishing a business or purchasing a home.

What's puzzling is that all the same provisions, and all the same protections for her daughter, could have been included in a Living Trust created during Houston's lifetime. A properly prepared Living Trust would have kept her estate out of Probate Court, and away from the public's prying eyes.

Then there's also the issue of Houston's ex-husband, Bobby Brown. Houston did not update her Will following her 2007 divorce from Brown. Had she died with no living children, Brown would have received an inheritance.  Was this intentional? It's likely we will never know.

It's a tragedy that someone so young and talented has passed away in this manner. The sensationalism and scrutiny that follows the celebrity's  death is not pretty, either, but we can at least learn from it. See an experienced Estate Planning Attorney/Elder Law Attorney to ensure that your plan is sound, and keep it updated as your life's circumstances change. 

1 comment:

Lulaine @ RD Legal Funding said...

Celebrity estates can always be a messed up situation because of the dynamics of the economic situations and where and how the money or assets would be divided. If the will is contested, it can be a long and brutal fight.

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