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Can Whitney Houston’s Daughter Be Trusted with Her Inheritance?

Fans of the late pop singer Whitney Houston may be aware that a new reality show about her family begins tonight. “The Houstons: On Our Own” focuses on Houston’s 19-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina, though Houston’s mother and sister-in-law (who is also the show’s executive producer) will also appear on the Lifetime series.

But off camera in Los Angeles, another Houston family drama is taking place. Houston’s mother and sister-in-law have asked a probate court to take another look at Houston’s will, in which Bobbi Kristina is named the sole heir to the singer’s estimated $20 million estate. Her mother’s other family members are concerned that the 19-year-old lacks the maturity to properly handle the vast sums of money she’ll soon inherit.

Houston’s will, which was drafted in 1993 shortly after Bobbi was born, includes what is known as a testamentary trust, in which the money in an estate is distributed in increments to a beneficiary. According to the terms of Houston’s trust, Bobbi will get 10 percent of her mother’s estate when she turns 21 years old. When she reaches 25, she’ll receive another one-sixth of the total inheritance. Finally, at age 30, she’ll inherit the remainder of the estate. It’s worth noting that this amount includes any future assets that Whitney Houston acquires posthumously, such as royalties and other earnings.

Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, and her sister-in-law, Marion Patricia Houston, say in their petition to reform the trust that giving Bobbi full control over her inheritance at such a young age would defeat her mother’s intended purpose of the will, which was to provide long-term financial security for Bobbi. It could also drive other people who come into her life to try to “exert undue influence” over the funds and attempt to benefit from them. They haven’t specified what their suggested changes are, but want to modify the will to express what they believe would have been Whitney’s preferences closer to the time of her death.

This certainly isn’t the first instance of a family attempting to change a person’s will after death. Proclaiming that “it’s what she would have wanted” may not hold up in a probate court, whether it’s the will of a multimillionaire or a family member with a much more modest estate. The more carefully you plan now, the less likely your heirs may be to wrangle over your own estate.

Source: Forbes, “Whitney Houston’s Family Doesn’t Trust Bobbi Kristina’s Ability To Handle Money,” Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Oct. 2, 2012