Houston Estate Planning Law Blog

BOBBI KRISTINA BROWN WILL GET WHITNEY HOUSTON’S ESTATE–AT AGE 30

With the recent passing of soul singer Whitney Houston, many legal specialists have talked about the estate that she left behind. As many Texas residents would expect, a recent article reports that the vocal artist left her entire estate to her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown. However, there is one minor problem. Sources say that Houston had a provision in her will that will make it difficult for Brown to receive her inheritance.

The will clause, which has been validated by court, indicates that Brown will inherit Houston’s items at the age of 30. Currently, Brown is 19 years old. That means that she must wait more than a decade before she can actually have control over her inheritance.

So, what will happen to all of the money and assets? The provision states that Brown’s inheritance should be placed in a trust until she is eligible to receive the share. Fortunately, Brown will get 10 percent of her mother’s money and assets at her 21st birthday. Furthermore, she will get an additional one-sixth of the value in the trust at the age of 25.

While this may be disappointing to Houston’s daughter, in reality, the will provision will prevent Brown from blowing through her inheritance too quickly.

If you are in the process of estate planning and you have younger children, you may want to consider creating a provision in your will that is similar to Houston’s. Obviously, no one expects to pass away early in life. Nevertheless, death is often unexpected. For this reason, it is imperative to prepare for your children. While they may deserve your estate, it’s risky to put money or assets in the hands of a young child.

Source: Gather, “Bobbi Kristina Brown Left Everything by Whitney Houston… with a Catch!?” William Mantic, April 9, 2012

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MAN WILLS A HEFTY DONATION TO 22 NONPROFITS

As Texas residents know, nothing is more inspiring than when an ordinary person donates their estate money to organizations in need. This was exactly the case for a Whirlpool worker who recently died at the age of 73. This man left behind a large estate; however, he had no heirs.

In sum, this generous person donated his $1 million estate to 22 nonprofits through his will. Some organizations received as much as $48,000.

So, where did this money come from? Sources say that the man had hefty personal savings. He also had retained some inheritance money.

Some organizations never knew of the man; they had no idea why he chose them as beneficiaries. Nevertheless, the selfless act is greatly appreciated by the recipients.

In this particular case, the man did careful research and came up with a list of 22 organizations that were important to him. Children’s charities, health foundations, nature organizations and other causes received some of the money.

One organization, the Ronald McDonald House, intends to use its money to help pay expenses for families who stay at the facility. According to the facility’s executive director, “The impact of this will be tremendous.”

Are you the kind of person who makes plans to do something good for your community? Unfortunately, life can be very busy, and sometimes we don’t have the time to assist those in need. If this is case, you may want to consider formulating your estate plans to include charities or organizations that you believe in. Many organizations scrap by with little funding. If you have always intended to assist specific nonprofits, like this man, you may have the opportunity to do so through a solid estate plan.

Source: Evansville Courier & Press, “Late Whirlpool retiree’s $1 million estate divided among 22 nonprofits,” Susan Orr, April 18, 2012

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ESTATE PLANNING FOR COUPLES

How married couples and domestic partners format their estate depends on a number of factors. Texas families come in all shapes and sizes. Therefore, whether estate plans should be done as a couple or independently is a case-by-case question.

Joint representation can be more cost-effective and efficient; however, if each spouse has his or her own lawyer, he or she may have more freedom to address personal concerns. This is especially important in blended families because there can be conflicting interests between family members–step children, step parents, etc.

Ultimately, a couple should not create estate plans together unless communication is open. Nevertheless, before you make a final decision, there are some factors that you should consider:

• If only one of you has children: If the parent dies first, there is a risk that the childless partner will leave out the children. While this issue can be addressed in shared estate planning documents, sources suggest that individuals plan separately in this particular scenario.

• If one of you is economically dependent on the other: This is usually not a reason to get separate lawyers; however, it might be when connected with other factors on this list.

• Length of the relationship: If the relationship is shorter, individuals should probably get separate lawyers. In other words, the longer the relationship, the safer couples are in joint representation.

• There is a prenuptial agreement: If it was important enough to have prenuptial or a property agreement prior to marriage, it is probably just as important to have separate lawyers for estate planning.

• Age difference: If there is a significant age difference between partners, individuals should get separate attorneys. At very different ages, individuals have diverse agendas or interests.

These are just some of the factors people should consider when determining whether they should make estate plans independently or together. In the end, experts claim that the decision mainly rests on financial issues. Therefore, one should not be offended if his or her partner opts for separate representation.

Source: Forbes, “Estate Planning For Couples: Should It Be A Solo Or A Duet?” Deborah L. Jacobs, April 10, 2012

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AMERICANS SPEND, DONATE OR LOSE HALF OF THEIR INHERITANCES

If you received a hefty inheritance, what would you do with the money or assets? Would you opt for a new home? Would you buy a fancy car? Or, would you save your gift? According to a new study, the saving option is not practiced by many Texas residents and other individuals in our nation. Given the current economic state of America, sources say that this news is surprising.

Researchers from Ohio State University have found that adults who receive an inheritance save approximately half of what they obtain. The study suggests that individuals spend, donate or lose the remainder of the bequest.

The study examined 7,500 people who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The research began in 1979. It shows that Americans are expected to transfer nearly $4 trillion to their heirs over the next decade. Those concerned about the country’s low savings rate hope that this expected inheritance is used logically and efficiently by those who receive it.

Hopefully, informing the public about this issue will motivate people to restrain their spending and use inheritance money for their children’s college payments or future retirement.

Ultimately, what you do with your bequests is your own choice. You can invest it, donate it or spend it. Nevertheless, with an economy that has been struggling for quite some time, maybe it is time to consider saving your inheritance. Regardless of what you choose to do, there is one thing that you should absolutely not do–lose it all.

Source: EmpowHer, “Americans only save half of their inheritances,” Bailey Mosier, March 20, 2012

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MAJOR LEGAL CONTEST OVER WOMAN’S WILL

A national case might encourage Texas residents to ensure their estate planning documents are in order. Specifically, a copper heiress’ will is being contested in court by angry family members. The woman’s last will came in April of 2005 and left the majority of her fortune to charity and over $30 million to one of her private nurses. A will signed six weeks prior to the April document left her vast wealth to be divided among 20 of the woman’s great-nieces and nephews.

In 1991, a friend sent a doctor to visit her and found her living in a dirty apartment that was lit only by a single candle. The woman was also suffering from skin cancer and her face had been ravaged by the disease. The woman was admitted into the hospital. Although her health continued to improve after that, the woman refused to return home, instead choosing to be stay at the hospital. The woman was known to be extremely reclusive in the last 20 years of her life and she surrounded herself with private doctors and nurses. In return for their care, she showered them with gifts and lavish amounts of money.

A legal battle begins as the family is now contesting the will and seeking the return of all of the gifts she gave, including a painting donated to the hospital where she lived and also a donation to a Washington art gallery. In all, they are seeking to reclaim $37 million worth of gifts, even though the woman’s estate is valued at a massive $400 million. While the family is attempting to portray the woman as someone who had been taken advantage of, the recipients of her gifts describe her as an independently minded woman who was very generous.

So far, no one has been charged with any crimes and everyone involved in this situation has denied any wrongdoing. Many believe the woman was merely generous and chose to reward those who cared for her. This case may serve as a strong suggestion for individuals to ensure their estate planning documents are in order before their deaths. While it won’t always prevent squabbling families, it can help ensure one’s last wishes stand up against the scrutiny of a court.

Source: Yahoo! News, “Copper heiress’ huge gifts spotlighted in NY court,” Jennifer Peltz, June 17, 2012

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