Livens & Reed, PLLC

Singer's estate planning was not adjusted to meet changing need

In Texas and elsewhere, it is important to be thorough in one's estate plan, and to regularly review it for necessary revisions. For example, the arguably insufficient plan of deceased singing star Whitney Houston demonstrates some potential pitfalls of not being thorough and of not reviewing it regularly. In 1993, Houston executed a will leaving everything to her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown. Unfortunately, the daughter died recently at age 22, apparently leaving no immediate family except for her father, Bobby Brown, who was estranged and divorced from Houston.  This scenario raises potential dilemmas and poses questions about a better way of handling estate planning under similar facts.

There is an estimated $20 million in assets left in the Houston estate, which is increasing with the regular receipt of royalties. The will had provided that Bobbi Kristina would inherit through a testamentary trust and would get 10 percent at age 21, one-sixth at age 25 and the balance at age 30. The daughter's 10 percent that she received at age 21 will likely go to her surviving heir, her father Bobby Brown, unless she had a will.

The remaining 90 percent will apparently go to Houston's brothers and to her mother. Houston had provided in her will that if her daughter died unmarried and without a will, the remainder would go to Houston's brothers and mother.  Because Houston and Brown divorced in 2007, Brown probably has no claim against this part of the estate.

The 1993 will, however, should have been reviewed and updated by Houston yearly or at least every two years. She did not review and change it after the divorce. She also could have set up a living trust to get the fund earmarked to her daughter during Houston's life and to avoid probate at her death. There may have been substantial changes she would have preferred had she taken the time to review her estate planning documents on a regular basis. These general principles apply in Texas and all other jurisdictions.

Source:, "Who Will Inherit Whitney Houston's Fortune Following Bobbi Kristina's Death -- and What Are the Lessons?", Aug. 5, 2015

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