Lessons Learned from the Bobbi Kristina Brown Tragedy

By Andrew J. Cevasco, Esquire

No one expects to die young and no one expects their children to die even younger.  When tragedies like that occur, the estate issues left behind are usually monumental, and the results rarely coincide with what the decedent wished.

Whitney Houston, however, planned well for death.  She left her considerable fortune in Trust for her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, to be paid out over time between the ages of 21 and 30.  The Trust provided that should Bobbi die prematurely, the assets would pass to Whitney Houston’s family. As a result, in addition to providing structured distribution to Bobbi Kristina , when her daughter  died only a few years later, the bulk of Whitney Houston’s assets remained in the Trust for distribution to Whitney’s mother and siblings as opposed to becoming part of Bobbi Kristina’s estate. That was a very smart estate planning decision.

Had Whitney Houston not established a Trust the situation likely would have played out in a financial tragedy that would have matched the family’s personal tragedy. Under intestacy laws, Bobbi Kristina likely would have inherited her mother’s entire estate as a very young adult. Putting aside the likelihood that these assets would have been wasted quickly by an inexperienced child, when Bobbie Kristina died a few short years later without a Will, tens of millions of dollars would have passed to her father, Bobby Brown, from whom Whitney was divorced in 2007 –  a result that Whitney most certainly would not have intended or appreciated.

That may also have set up a lawsuit between Nick Gordon, who claimed to have been married to Bobbi Kristina, and his purported father-in-law, Bobby Brown.  Again, it is unlikely that Nick would have been the intended beneficiary of Whitney’s estate in light of the fact that he has recently been sued civilly for stealing money from Bobbi Kristina, physically and emotionally abusing her, and causing the injuries that eventually led to her death.

We cannot control the future, but a prudent client with a well planned estate can at least control the distribution of their assets.

To see additional comments by Andrew Cevasco, Esquire, a partner in the Hackensack, New Jersey office, click here for the Star-Ledger article.