Personal and financial decisions during life drastically impact legacy in death
(Los Angeles-August 3, 2015)–Bobbi Kristina Brown was laid to rest last month after experiencing an irreversible brain injury in January. Sadly, the circumstances of her death mirror those of her mother, music icon, Whitney Houston who passed away in 2012 on the eve of the Grammy Awards.
Although tragic, there has been little surprise of the path of Bobbi’s life. The manner in which one lives their life directly affects what they leave behind as a family legacy. While Whitney was certainly an extremely talented woman, she lived an unfortunately dysfunctional life cluttered with drugs, bad behavior and chaotic relationships. Bobby Brown and Whitney’s choice to star in “Being Bobby Brown” damaged their personal personas and shockingly represented their questionable lifestyle and values. Bobbi Kristina endured it all as an unwilling and defenseless participant.
Despite the widespread critique of Whitney’s personal choices, reports indicate that her financial decisions helped secure her child’s future. By preparing a will benefiting Bobbi Kristina, Whitney used the most basic estate-planning document that can protect a child in the case of a parent’s death. However, a revocable living trust, available to any parent, can do much more to control the distribution of wealth by establishing specific legal authority and instructions as to how and when money is to be used to protect the child.
Most parents of young adults want an experienced and trustworthy family member, friend or advisor to manage the money for the benefit of the child until they are of suitable age and experience to independently manage. This is absolutely necessary when a large prize is involved like Whitney’s estimated $20 million estate. The trust can contain incentives for the child to accomplish desirable goals such as college educations and/or employment.
Likewise, the trust gives the trustee the power to limit distributions when undesirable circumstances such as drug/ alcohol abuse or abusive friends adversely affect our child’s future. A trust helps the child to avoid becoming a target for creditors and predators and incorporates our personal life values. Also, it can determine in tragic circumstances such as these, who will inherit the assets if our child suffers an untimely death.
The complete terms of Whitney’s will are unknown. Nonetheless, if a more protective estate plan had been in place, Bobbi Kristina could have been guarded from boyfriend Nick Gordon who allegedly stole thousands of dollars from Bobbi. It also could have possibly prevented Bobbi’s demise from drug abuse by providing counseling and rehabilitation when her drug problems became obvious. Had guidance been given to Bobbi after her mother’s death, maybe Bobbi’s life would have taken a different course.
When we fail to realize the power of our decisions, we increase the chances of destroying the legacy that we have worked to create. Whitney made a lasting impact in entertainment for being one of the greatest vocalists of her time but her greatest legacy was Bobbi Kristina. Although she outlined the distribution of funds, Whitney did not attach protections that could have saved Bobbi grief.
Bobbi Kristina is one of many children, unfortunately, who have fallen victim to the mishap of family dysfunction. But even in dysfunction, there is a way to plan for the future. Love is spoken in many ways, but love without action is meaningless. It is saddening that lessons are sometimes learned too late, but sad as it may be, both Whitney and Bobby Brown’s mistakes in parenting are a legacy in itself. To leave the legacy you want, it is crucial to live a lifestyle of values for your children to follow. Make sure an estate plan is an example of your values.
About the Collins Law Group
Lead by Harvard Law graduate Caprice Collins, the Collins Law Group tirelessly provides high quality and diverse estate planning resources. Through the use of Living Trusts, Wills (simple & complex), Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Irrevocable Trusts, Family Limited Partnerships, and Charitable Gifting Strategies, the firm helps families preserve their wealth for future generations, minimize estate taxes, and avoid the expense and nightmare of probate.