Feb 24, 2015

Management of Bobbi Kristina Brown's affairs - in life and death - turns on whether she was legally married

Another day, another high-profile estate dispute. Another demonstration of why good planning is necessary to protect families from falling into disarray following the disability or death of a loved one. 

This time, the sad incident centers on Bobbi Kristina Brown, the only child of rapper Bobby Brown and his late wife, singer Whitney Houston. Brown was found unconscious January 31 in the bathtub of her Atlanta home. The 21-year-old has been hospitalized since then. Her ventilator was removed last week and she remains unconscious, in a medically induced coma. Her recovery is uncertain. 

At the time she was found, Bobbi Kristina was romantically involved with Nick Gordon, the man her mother took into her home and raised throughout his teens, but never officially adopted. In fact, in January, Bobbi Kristina announced that she and Gordon had been married. Brown's father denies they were legally wed, though. If he is right and they were not married, in the apparent absence of any written advance directives from Kristina, that leaves her father, her closest living relative, in charge of decisions about her medical treatment and continuing life support. He and Gordon have not been on good terms and to date he has not permitted Gordon to visit his daughter in the hospital. No marriage also means that if she passes away, her father is on track to inherit the $20 million his daughter is to inherit from her late mother. For his part, Gordon has accused Brown of managing the entire sad affair so he can get his hands on his daughter's fortune.

Stay tuned. There will surely be much, much more, and it does not look like it will be pleasant.

Most of us come from homes and families far less complicated, and far less wealthy, than Brown's. Even so, even the strongest of relationships can be tested when there is competition for an inheritance or differing opinions about who makes the decisions for an incapacitated loved one. Learn more about making plans to avoid these disputes in your own family with advance directives, and Florida estate planning.

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