A Forbes article posted on March 15, 2012 discusses how “Whitney Houston’s Will Was Far From Perfect.” The article highlights two simple estate planning practices that could have benefitted Bobbi Kristina, Whitney’s only child and sole heir:
1. Consider a living trust instead of a will. A living trust can have the advantage of maintaining privacy and avoiding probate. Although Whitney did think to have her assets held in trust for Bobbi Kristina, it was created through her will and at the time of her death, resulting in a testamentary trust. As with a living trust, her daughter would not inherit all her money at once. Instead, she will receive a portion of the estate by age 21, another by age 25, and the balance at age 30. However, a testamentary trust would still need to go through a potentially expensive and time-consuming probate court in order to take effect. Moreover, the contents of the will are now accessible to the public.
2. Update estate planning documents after life changing events. Whitney’s will was signed nearly two decades ago, when she was still married to Bobby Brown. Whitney had named him as Bobbi Kristina’s guardian and did not update the will after their divorce in 2007. In most states, a spouse could challenge a will and receive more than his or her intended share. Despite being divorced, Bobby Brown could take a cue from Britney Spear’s case and attempt to control the estate through a conservatorship.
The full article, which can be found here, ends with a valuable lesson for everyone:
“Most people would benefit from living trusts, beyond just simple wills. And, whether you have a will, trust, or both, it’s important to update your estate planning documents with life events, like divorces, new children, buying or selling a home, or starting a new business.”
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