Whitney Houston’s family has been through its share of disagreements since the pop diva passed away on February 11, 2012. Early on, there was trouble at the funeral, sparking concerns of a feud with Bobby Brown. Recently, however, the trouble has centered around Nick Gordon. Gordon was raised and treated like a son by Whitney Houston, from the time he was 12 years old.
Rather than looking at Whitney Houston's Daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, as a sister, Gordon (now age 24) and Bobbi Kristina (who just turned 21) have recently gotten married. The tabloids are having fun with that relationship! Whitney’s mother, Cissy Houston, reportedly called the relationship “incestuous” when they were dating. Now that they are actually married, TMZ says Cissy was furious, but she hasn’t spoken publicly about it since then.
Other family members are not keeping quiet. In fact, the co-executor of Whitney Houston’s estate, sister-in-law Pat Houston, obtained a restraining order against Gordon recently. The restraining order was obtained because Pat says Gordon has made threatening comments and posted pictures of guns. She took the legal action just weeks after TMZ reported that Gordon was violently beaten by one of Whitney’s nephews, during a fight at a Houston family function.
Although you should take tabloid reports with a grain of skepticism, there can be no question that Bobbi Kristina’s marriage to Gordon has set off fireworks in Whitney Houston’s family. And the timing is noteworthy. Bobbi Kristina just turned 21 a few weeks ago.
Why is this milestone so important? Under Whitney Houston’s will, Bobbi Kristina begins receiving her inheritance at age 21, starting with a 10% distribution. While that may not sound like a lot, various reports have estimated the estate’s assets at $12 million to $20 million. If accurate, this means that Bobbi Kristina likely just became a millionaire. So the big question is, can she handle the money or will she fall prey to those who may try to take advantage of her new-found wealth?
The family was so worried about Bobbi Kristina’s immaturity and inability to handle this money, that they previously had started legal proceedings to try to delay the payouts until she was older. Cissy and other family members felt that inheriting this money would destroy Bobbi Kristina.
They claimed that Whitney actually wanted Bobbi Kristina to receive it when she was older. The problem was that Whitney’s will — written almost 20 years before she died — dictated what would happen with the money. What Whitney may have actually intended years later does not matter, because she never updated her will. So the legal dispute was quickly settled, and Bobbi Kristina gets her money as spelled out in Whitney’s will — starting at age 21.
Is the family worried that Nick Gordon’s relationship with Bobbi Kristina is because of her inheritance? The timing is interesting, to say the least.
We would not be surprised if the recent tumult is only the beginning. What’s happening to Whitney Houston’s family is a sad lesson in estate planning. If Whitney had updated her will (or better yet, created a revocable living trust) and put in provisions to protect Bobbi Kristina and insure that she only received the money when she was capable of handling it, the family dynamics would likely be considerably different. If Cissy and the other family members are believed, Whitney Houston made a critical error by not updating her estate planning in recent years to protect her vulnerable daughter.
Hopefully others can learn from this mistake and take steps to better protect their heirs.
By Danielle and Andrew Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! For the latest celebrity and high-profile cases, with tips to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your clients, click here to subscribe to The Trial & Heirs Update. You can “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and Google+.