The Co-Trustees of the testamentary trust that was established for the benefit of Whitney Houston's only child after the singer's untimely death have filed a petition that requests the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia, to change the terms of the trust. According to the petition, while the testamentary trust is to be used to provide for the "welfare and support" of Whitney Houston's now 19-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, with outright distributions to be made as set forth in an undisclosed "Distribution Schedule," the will that established the trust was signed by Whitney Houston on February 3, 1993, a month before Bobbi Kristina was born. In addition, the petition states that Bobbi Kristina "is a highly visible target for those who would exert undue influence over her inheritance and/or seek to benefit from [her] resources and celebrity." Therefore, the Co-Trustees of the trust, Whitney Houston's mother and sister-in-law, Cissy Houston and Marion Houston, believe that "Compliance with the Distribution Schedule would likely directly conflict with and cause the opposite of the Testatrix's intent to provide long-term financial security and protection for her child."
While the petition does not disclose the terms of the "Distribution Schedule," prior media reports indicated that Bobbi Kristina is to receive her inheritance outright when she reaches the age of 30, and so apparently the Co-Trustees have decided to be proactive in trying to protect the bulk of the trust for Bobbi Kristina's benefit well into the future. Of course, the petition states that Whitney Houston changed her will in 2000 by signing a codicil, but all it did was change who would serve as Trustees of the testamentary trust, it did not alter the provisions of the testamentary trust itself. She could have easily changed the testamentary trust to provide for a lifetime trust for Bobbi Kristina's benefit in the 2000 codicil or in a second codicil or even a brand new will, but the fact remains that she didn't, so it will be left up to a judge to decide "if, owing to circumstances not known to or anticipated by the settlor, compliance with the provisions of the trust would defeat or substantially impair the accomplishment of the purposes of such trust" (see O.C.G.A. § 53-12-62).
So what's next? The petition was filed with the court on September 25, and so Bobbi Kristina will have 30 days from the date her attorney is served with a copy of the petition in which to file an answer. I doubt that Bobbi Kristina will want to have her inheritance tied up and in control of her grandmother and aunt any longer than absolutely necessary, so her response will deny the allegations made in the petition and request that the petition be denied.
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- What Are the Options for Paying Adult Beneficiaries Their Inheritance?
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