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The Trouble of Whitney and Bobbi Houston

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The death of Bobbi Kristina Brown’s sparked the inevitable question of who stands to inherit the late singer Whitney Houston's fortune.  Bobbi Kristina, Houston's only daughter, died on July 22, 2015 at the age of 22, six months after being found unresponsive in a bathtub at her home and spent the remainder of her life in medical care.

Beneficiaries Under the Will

Houston’s will put the majority of her estate in a spendthrift trust to Bobbi Kristina, the sole heir, to be distributed in separate installments: 10 percent to be received at 21, 30 percent at 25, and the rest upon her turning 30. Based on calculations, at the time of her death, Bobbi Kristina had only received 10 percent of the estate, the total amount of which is not publicly known but is suspected to be around $20 million. The estate reportedly consists of property in addition to the record profits and music royalties.

According to Bruce H. Gaynes, of Georgia-based Kitchens Kelley Gaynes, P.C., who spoke with TheWrap, the will stipulates that in the event “Bobbi Kristina were to die unmarried, without children of her own and had left no will and testament of her own, the estate would be divided among Whitney's living relatives." Those relatives are Houston’s mother, Emily “Cissy” Houston, and her brothers, Michael and Gary. 

Legal Battle Ahead?

As is usually the case with sizable estates, the likelihood of a messy court showdown is almost certain. Bobby Brown, Houston’s ex-husband and father of Bobbi Kristina, no longer stands to inherit any portion of the remaining 90 percent in trust unless otherwise stipulated in Houston’s estate plan (they divorced in 2007). However, Brown is the sole beneficiary of Bobbi Kristina’s estate as her next of kin, including the 10 percent she already inherited from the Houston estate, unless, in the unlikely event (given her young age), she left a will dictating otherwise.

Complicating matters is Nick Gordon, Bobbi Kristina’s boyfriend, who she claimed was her husband on various social media outlets. Absent a waiver of spousal rights (for example, a pre-nuptial agreement), every state has provisions entitling a surviving spouse to receive a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate, the elective share. In Georgia, the state they resided in, does not recognize the common marriage law. It will be up to Nick to produce a marriage certificate for evidence. If he is successful, he is entitled to his share of Bobbi Kristina’s estate (but not the remainder of Houston’s estate).

The only scenario in which all bets are off is if Bobbi Kristina did indeed leave behind a will, naming Gordon as the heir, or, also possibly, stipulating other unanticipated beneficiaries.   

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