Will, or no will, that is the big question, of course, along with: who will inherit Bobbi Kris’ estimated $20 million fortune? If there was not a properly executed will, then the intestate succession laws of the state of Georgia will dictate. However, whether or not there was a will, an estate as valuable as Bobbi Kristina Brown’s is likely to have all close relatives racing into probate court.
Although state laws differ, under typical intestate succession laws (including Georgia) if someone dies and is survived by a spouse and no descendants, then the surviving spouse will inherit the deceased’s entire estate. In this case, it has been reported that Bobbi Kristina Brown married her unofficially adopted brother and close friend, Nick Gordon. However, given the uncertainties regarding Gordon’s actions prior to Bobbi Kristina being found unresponsive in a bathtub, there are other variables: If he were to be found to have caused her death, he would be disinherited under the Slayer Rule (also known as the Forfeiture Rule), which prohibits an inheritance by a person who causes the death of (committing homicide against) a person they stood to inherit from.
Since Bobbi Kristina died without any children, the next in line would be her parents. Since her famous mother, Whitney Houston, predeceased her, singer Bobby Brown, her father, could stand to inherit the entire fortune. However, it is likely that her grandmother, the legendary Cissy Houston, would fight tooth and nail to disallow that from happening.
Contesting of a Will
It is rumored that Bobbi Kristina did have a will, leaving her estate to her grandmother, Cissy Houston, and her two uncles (Whitney’s brothers), Michael and Gary Houston. However, wills are contested every day, especially when there is $20 million or more at stake.
So, who can contest?
1) A beneficiary (someone named in the will)
2) Anyone who would inherit if the will is declared invalid (it would be as if the will never existed and the rules of intestate succession are applied)
This would be Cissy Houston’s second round battling over her late daughter’s fortune, as she has already fought once in probate court, when she contested Whitney’s entire estate being inherited solely by Bobbi Kristina. Her reasoning was that Bobbi Kristina was too young and troubled to handle a fortune of that magnitude. The court eventually ordered that Bobbi Kristina would receive her inheritance in three phases: 10% when she reached the age of 21, 15% when she reached the age of 25, and the remainder when she reached the age of 30
Basis for Contesting a Will
Common reasons that relatives contest a decedent’s will are because of duress, undue influence, testamentary capacity, insane delusion, or fraud in the inducement. In this case, duress and/or capacity would be the strongest arguments, based on what we know about the young heiress’ very public life.
Duress involves some threat of physical harm or coercion upon the testator, which caused the execution of the will; undue influence involves accusations that a trusted relative, friend, or caretaker procured, through active coercion, a will to reflect their own desires.
Someone contesting a will that names Cissy Houston and her two sons as the sole beneficiaries might argue that if Bobbi Kristina’s grandmother felt entitled to Whitney’s estate after Whitney’s death, she would continue to feel worthy of inheriting from her late daughter’s estate, making it likely that she put pressure on Bobbi Kris to execute a will that included her as a beneficiary of the estate.
Claims based on lack of testamentary capacity asserts the testator lacked mental capacity when the will was drafted; insane delusion is another issue concerning capacity and exists when someone executes a will while strongly holding a fixed false belief without hypothesis, having no foundation in reality.
Shortly after the death of Whitney Houston, Bobbi Kristina and some of her relatives starred in a reality television show, which depicted the young Bobbi Kris consuming alcohol at excessive levels, and appearing to be under the influence of some sort of narcotic. It is well documented that juvenile Bobbi Kristina was devastated over her mother’s death and having a difficult time coping. An attorney helping to contest a will of Bobbi Kristina would likely argue that she lacked capacity to draft a valid will, due to her apparent drug and alcohol abuse.
Residuary Clause in Whitney Houston’s Will
It also has been reported that Whitney Houston included a residuary clause in her will that could resolve any and all issues surrounding Bobbi Kristina’s estate. Though Bobbi Kris had assets of her own, such as real estate, cars, and other valuables, most eyes will be set on what she stood to inherit from her mother. Since Bobbi Kristina received only 10% of Whitney Houston’s estate while she was alive, she did not yet have a vested interest in the remaining 90% at the time of her death. Therefore, what is left of Houston’s estate will likely be distributed under the residuary clause in her will, should one exist.
Probate issues are complex, not only when it comes to celebrities, but also when it comes to the average American. The Law Office of Christopher B. Johnson is equipped to handle the most intricate of estate planning concerns. Contact them today to begin developing your estate plan, which would allow loved ones left behind more time to cherish what you worked so hard and diligently for during your precious lifetime, rather than battle over it.