Fairfax, VA (Law Firm Newswire) September 21, 2015 – The recent death of Bobbi Kristina Brown has generated much interest in who will inherit the estate left to her by her mother, Whitney Houston.
Ms. Brown, the sole child and heir of Whitney Houston, died at the age of 22 on July 26, 2015. She died six months after being discovered unresponsive in a bathtub in her home in Georgia.
According to Houston’s will, her entire estate was left to Ms. Brown in a spendthrift trust, which is a trust that restricts the beneficiary’s access to the principal of the trust, and prevents the beneficiary’s creditors from reaching the trust. The estate, which is believed to be worth approximately $20 million, was to be distributed to Brown in three installments. She was to receive 10 percent at age 21, 30 percent at age 25, and the remainder upon reaching age 30. Since she died at age 22, she received just 10 percent of the estate, or $2 million, which is said to include property, cars, jewelry and clothing, as well as music royalties and record profits. Any amounts that were used to pay for Brown’s medical expenses were deducted from the value of the estate.
“The terms of Houston’s will are controlling, but in an estate of this magnitude, certain parties may try to litigate the matter in order to prove their entitlement to a portion of the estate,” said Lisa McDevitt, a prominent estate planning attorney.
The will states that if Brown died while unmarried, with no children and without a will, the estate would be distributed among Houston’s living relatives. The relatives include Houston’s mother, Emily “Cissy” Houston, and Houston’s brothers, Michael and Gary.
Due to the large size of the estate, there may be a legal battle in the future. Houston’s ex-husband, Bobbi Brown, who is Ms. Brown’s father, is not a beneficiary of the 90 percent that was left in trust to Ms. Brown because he and Houston divorced in 2007. But as her next of kin, Mr. Brown is the only beneficiary of Bobbi Kristina’s estate, including the $2 million that was already distributed to her. However, if Ms. Brown left a will naming someone other than Mr. Brown as her heir, then he would not inherit under the will.
And then there is the matter of Ms. Brown’s boyfriend, Nick Gordon, whom Ms. Brown claimed was her husband. If they were married, then he is to inherit the elective share, or that part of the deceased spouse’s estate to which the surviving spouse is entitled unless he waived his spousal rights through a pre-nuptial agreement. In order to prove that they were married, Gordon will be required to produce a marriage certificate because Georgia no longer recognizes common-law marriage.
But Gordon’s inheritance rights may be marred by the lawsuit filed against him by Ms. Brown’s conservator who was appointed by the court. She claims that Gordon was moving funds from Ms. Brown’s account, and that he committed domestic violence, thereby causing the injuries that resulted in her death.
"If you have questions concerning a potentially litigious estate planning matter, you should consult an experienced estate planning attorney," said McDevitt.
Lisa Lane McDevitt
2155 Bonaventure Drive
Vienna, VA 22181