After a six-month coma, the life of Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, has tragically ended. Just how tragic her short life really was may not be known for some time. But the details that have emerged are nothing short of heart-wrenching, if the allegations of a recently-filed lawsuit filed on behalf of Bobbi Kristina prove to be true.
According to that lawsuit, Whitney Houston’s millions were at the heart of this tragedy. But what role did they really play in Bobbi Kristina’s death?
It was on January 31, 2015 that Bobbi Kristina was found unresponsive, unconscious, and face down in a bath tub. That was nearly three years from the day her mother famously drowned, also in a bathtub. Bobbi Kristina was placed into a medically-induced coma and reportedly suffered severe brain damage.
While various relatives made contradictory public statements over her condition, they cooperated enough to permit her father, Bobby Brown, and her aunt, Pat Houston, to serve together as Bobbi Kristina’s co-guardians, managing her medical care and Read more...
Whitney Houston’s fortune bounced from sky-high to significant debt. What did this mean for her estate? And was it money — or something else — behind Whitney’s ugly legal battle with her “step-mother”?
How exactly does Bobby Brown fit into all of this?
This is installment #4 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts. See other articles in the series here.
Before Whitney Houston unexpectedly drowned in a Beverly Hills hotel bathtub at age 48, on February 11, 2012, rumors circulated that she was in such financial trouble that she was nearly broke. She reportedly died $20 million in debt.
How could that be possible for the singer who signed a $100 million record contract in 2001? And 2001 doesn’t even rank as her most successful year! In 1993, Whitney earned $33 million from The Bodyguard soundtrack and gave birth to her only child, Bobbi Kristina.
Whitney Houston Read more...
Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, and sister-in-law, Marion Houston, filed a request in court to change the terms of Whitney Houston’s will. They want to delay when Bobbi Kristina receives her inheritance in order to protect her.
The will created a “testamentary trust” for Bobbi Kristina. What is a testamentary trust? It’s when a will calls for money to be held in trust for one or more beneficiaries, usually so they can receive money spaced out over time instead of all at once. It’s far from perfect, as we discuss in this article, because a testamentary trust does not avoid probate, which can be expensive, messy and very public.
But that is not the biggest drawback to Whitney Houston’s will. Her biggest mistake was failing to update her will, even after her divorce from Bobby Brown, to better protect Bobbi Kristina. The will — signed on February 3, 1993 — provides that Bobbi Kristina will receive 10% of the estate when she turns age 21, another one-sixth Read more...
As two lawyers who have written about celebrity estates for years and hosted the national television special Trial and Heirs: Protect Your Family Fortune! on PBS affiliates, we’ve noticed that stars often make the same big estate planning mistakes as people with very modest assets. It’s just the dollar amounts that differ.
Learn from their goofs and avoid repeating them yourself. That way, you’ll protect your loved ones and be sure your inheritance wishes are carried out.
These are the top four estate planning mistakes made by celebs — errors you’ll want to avoid:
1. No will. Most of us naturally want to be sure our assets are distributed properly after we pass away, so it’s surprising that almost two-thirds of adults don’t even have simple wills. Whether you have millions of dollars or just a modest estate, estate planning is critical — starting with a will.
Unfortunately for the family of Amy Winehouse, the singer didn’t have a will when she unexpectedly passed away at age 27, leaving Read more...
Whitney Houston’s funeral this weekend provided the first public glimpse of what may be trouble involving her estate. Her ex-husband, Bobby Brown, was invited to the funeral, after reports surfaced that some family members didn’t want him there. He didn’t last long. Brown’s entourage wasn’t allowed to sit with him at the funeral. Brown wasn’t happy and left, visibly upset.
Bobby Brown issued a statement after the funeral, saying he and his group were asked to relocate three times, and rather than making a scene, he chose to pay his respects quickly and leave.
TMZ reported the day before Whitney Houston’s funeral that mother, Cissy Houston, and other family members had been trying to keep Brown away from Bobbi Kristina, Whitney’s daughter with Brown. They were said to be worried that Brown would try to use Bobbi Kristina to make a play for some of Whitney’s money.
Brown’s statement confirmed some of this. He said that security prevented him from seeing his daughter at the funeral. Is money the reason Read more...
Celebrity gossip websites ran a story last week claiming that Whitney Houston is “broke as a joke.” They even quoted an unnamed (of course) source claiming that Whitney would be homeless if not for the generosity of friends. She called someone to ask for $100, the story goes. If true, that would be quite a fall from financial grace for the singer who signed a $100 million record deal in 2001.
Whitney’s camp quickly denied the rumors and says they are “false and ridiculous“. Her rep points out that she just made a movie called Sparkle, with Jordin Sparks, and she didn’t work for free.
If Whitney is in need of money, she has another source she can pursue. Don’t be surprised to see Whitney Houston foreclose on her step-mother’s home soon.
Why would Whitney Houston do that? She recently claimed victory in the Federal Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in a sometimes-ugly lawsuit against the woman who married her father. That step-mother, Barbara Read more...
Did you know that family gatherings during the holidays are a great time to talk about celebrities, such as Whitney Houston, and how they can help your family avoid fighting when someone dies?
This is Part 2 of Trial & Heirs’ Top 5 Celebrity-Based Estate Planning Conversation Starters for Thanksgiving 2011:
(Did you miss Part 1? Click here.)
3. Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston has been locked in a vicious court battle with her step-mother over a $1 million life insurance policy from Whitney’s father, which named Whitney as the sole beneficiary. Whitney’s step-mother, Barbara, sued Whitney and claimed the money was meant for her, not Whitney. Whitney had lent her father money and held a private mortgage over his home, which Barbara received when Whitney’s father died in 2003. Barbara said the life insurance was meant to repay that money and Whitney was supposed to release the mortgage and turn the rest of the life insurance money over to Barbara.
So did Whitney agree that the money was to Read more...
While Whitney Houston was reportedly just admitted to rehab, she has one other concern that she still has to face — her no-holds-barred court fight with her late father’s widow.
In Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, Andy and Danielle Mayoras discuss the lawsuit involving Whitney Houston against Barbara Houston over a one million dollar life insurance policy.
You can read about Whitney’s battle against her “step-mother”, including how Whitney used the public lawsuit to attack Barbara Houston and her relationship with Whitney’s father, in this excerpt from Trial & Heirs that was featured on The Huffington Post.
The case has now moved on to the Court of Appeals after Whitney scored a big victory in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey late in 2010. The Judge ruled in her favor, even though he first discussed multiple letters sent between various of Whitney Houston’s accountants and attorneys; several letters validated Barbara Houston’s claim.
These letters supported Barbara’s position that the one million dollar Read more...
The Business Insider recently published an article featuring Trial & Heirs‘ Top 10 Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes. Here they are:
1. Jimi Hendrix’s Critical Error: Doing Nothing
If you do not plan your own estate while alive, you could end up like Jimi Hendrix and have someone that you barely knew controlling your legacy. Hendrix’s legacy was fought over in court more than 30 years after he died.
2. Justice Warren Burger’s Critical Error: Doing It Yourself
Former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger created his own will with 176 words but he left out key provisions and his family paid the price.
3. Heath Ledger’s Critical Error: Not Updating
Heath Ledger never updated his will with the birth of his daughter, leading to chaos and family members fighting through the press.
4. Princess Diana’s Critical Error: Taking Shortcuts
Princess Diana used a “letter of wishes” leaving personal items to her godchildren instead of specifying her wishes in a will or trust.
5. Florence Griffith-Joyner’s (Flo Jo) Critical Error: Forgetting Read more...