Bobbi Kristina's Final Days & The
Importance of Advanced Health Care Directives
By now most have heard the tragic news about the passing of Whitney Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina. Bobbi Kristina's medical condition and now death has been making headlines for several months and her story inevitably sparks an important discussion on estate planning.
Of course, the first question many people ask is who now stands to inherit her mother, Whitney Houston's, fortune as Bobbi Kristina was Houston's only daughter. According to this Forbes article, Houston’s will left her estate in a trust with Bobbi Kristina named as it's sole beneficiary- all of which was to be distributed in three installments: 10% at 21 years of age, 30% percent at 25, and the rest at 30 (in this article I will not be discussing whether this distribution scheme was appropriate in Houston's circumstance, but as a side note, much more could have been done to protect Bobbi Kristina's interests from both a financial perspective and a health perspective).
If these provisions were carried out accordingly, Bobbi Kristina had received only the initial 10% at the time of her death (the estate was speculated to be worth roughly $20 million).
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 and her brothers.
Time will tell whether this case will end up in a messy court dispute similar to other sizable estates in Hollywood- the likelihood is high especially considering this family's history.
Still Bobbi Kristina's father, Bobby Brown, would be the sole beneficiary of her estate (including the 10% of Houston's estate that she already received) unless she left a will behind which is doubtful.
To complicate matters even more Bobbi Kristina’s boyfriend, who she claimed was her husband on various social media outlets, may also have a claim to her estate if he can prove that they were in fact married. (According to Forbes, there is also speculation by the media that criminal investigations against him are under way, and though beyond the scope of our discussion here, would also affect Gordon's inheritance rights, if any, in the event of a conviction).
Although there is plenty to learn from Bobbi Kristina's story about wealth preservation and inheritances, it is imperative to take note of the lesson offered with regard to advanced health care directives. Bobbi Kristina died six months after she was found unresponsive. When she was found, she had reportedly suffered severe brain damage and was placed into a medically induced coma.
During her 6 months of incapacity, Bobbi Kristina's family members engaged in a public feud on what medical decisions to make on her behalf and how to move forward with her care. Depending on what kind of health care insurance she had, millions of dollars were also likely spent on her medical care; and in addition to the hospital tab, court fees and expenses were incurred as proceedings took place to appoint conservators for her estate and guardians to make her medical decisions.
This story illustrates first-hand the downfalls of failing to create an estate plan. While her family was busy arguing and dealing with court proceedings, Bobbi Kristina was in a devastating predicament for half a year. Had she executed the right documents before hand, neither she nor her family would have experienced such traumatizing circumstances.
So what are advanced health care directives after-all? Advanced health care directives are the documents in your estate plan that allow you to make medical decisions for yourself so that in the case of an emergency or tragedy, your loved ones are not charged with making these important decisions without your guidance (and have little to argue about).
A Living Will lays out your wishes with regard to medical decisions should you not have the capacity to make them for yourself at some future time. This is the document that will state how many days you wish to be on life support before all artificial means of life preservation are removed. In this document you may also make clear how many doctors must opine that you are in a vegetative state before any decisions regarding removal of life support.
A Designation of Health Care Surrogate allows you to chose the the person or people who would be responsible for making decisions on your behalf pursuant to the instructions and provisions in your Living Will.
In a HIPAA Waiver you can give loved ones permission to speak with doctors and obtain information. These named people don't necessarily have the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf, but can talk to doctors and relay information to those you have designated as your health care surrogates. The purpose of this is to ensure your family is always informed.
To discuss Advanced Health Care Directives or your estate plan in general, please call our office at (305) 860-8338 to schedule a call or a consultation. We are ready to educate you and walk you through our process.