At stake is an estimated $12 million to $20 million estate and potentially tens of millions of dollars more annually, almost in perpetuity, from branding and licensing opportunities.
Classic examples are the estates of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, which now earn more money each year than the artists ever made in life. Jackson’s estate reportedly earned $140 million in 2014, while Elvis’s earned $55 million, according to estimates by Forbes magazine.
Bobbi’s mother, pop singer Whitney Houston, was in the same league as an artist and her estate will generate increasing revenue as her legacy is monetized.
Whitney died unexpectedly in Feb. 2012 on the eve of the Grammy Awards, but she had the foresight to leave a will. Although it goes on for 19 pages, there’s no doubt about who would inherit her estate: She left everything to her daughter in a trust fund.
But things could get very complicated, not only if Bobbi dies, but when she dies, according to terms of the will examined by IM.
Whitney apparently tried to cover all the bases, including the early death of her only daughter.
While Bobbi Kristina inherited everything, the will stipulated that she had to receive the money in stages at 21, 25 and 30 years of age.
Because Bobbi was only 19 when her mother died, grandmother Cissy Houston as executor of the will, had sole discretion to decide how much money she received annually.
According to some accounts, Cissy disapproved of Bobbi’s relationship with Nick Gordon, whom Whitney took in as a child. As a result, she kept a tight rein on the money, often leading Bobbi and Nick to complain.
When Bobbi turned 21 in March a year ago, she finally was eligible under the will to received one-tenth of her inheritance. By some estimates, it ranged from $1 million to $2 million.
Bobbi was in line to received a larger chunk of money–one-sixth of her inheritance–when she turned 25 and the remainder of the estate when she turned 30 years old, according to the will.
But now all that is up in the air. Bobbi’s life or death could mean a huge swing in the fortunes of her mother’s relatives, possibly lover Nick Gordon and even father Bobby Brown and his family.
Although she is in a coma and possibly suffering from irreversible brain damage, she is still technically “alive.” As long as she remains so, the money must be distributed to her under the terms of the will.
The wild card is whether Bobbi Kristina has a will, and if so, who benefits from it.
Lawyers are under no obligation to release the document as long as she’s alive. It will only become public when it’s filed with the court as required by law, upon her death.
It’s conceivable that Bobbi’s will leaves some, or even all of her money, to Nick and dad Bobby and his relatives. If so, that would come at the expense of the her mother’s immediate family, which includes Whitney’s mom, Cissy, father John Houston and brothers Michael and Gary Houston.
Each are named as co-equal beneficiaries should Bobbi Kristina die before the bulk of the estate becomes hers on her 30th birthday. But if Bobbi lives at least that long, the estate will be hers and potentially divided according to her wishes.
Thus, the Houston family stands to lose everything if Bobbi lives, even in a vegetative state, until her 30th birthday. Gordon and the Browns could gain, if Bobbi Kristina provided for them in her will.
If Bobbi dies after turning 30 without a will, known as “intestate,” then her father would be entitled to half of her estate. Under Whitney’s will, Bobby currently gets nothing.
The will also specifically excludes Whitney’s half-brother John Houston III and Gordon by stipulation. Whitney only provided for survivors who were “formally adopted” and Nick never was.
Although Nick and Bobbi said they were married, the family lawyer revealed afterward that they never officially tied the knot, which also leaves Nick on the outside looking in barring a specific bequest.
What’s intriguing about the whole matter is how those who stand to benefit from Bobbi’s early death–the Houstons– are pessimistic about her survival. The Browns, who stand to benefit if she recovers, or at least lives until 30, are optimistic.
While it’s impossible to know what motives lurk in their souls, it’s clear to see where sentiments lie based on the old Watergate adage… follow the money.
According to the latest reports, Bobbi Kristina is off a ventilator and breathing on her own. As if according to script, Bobby Brown and other Brown family members claimed she is awake and responsive.
The Houstons, however, issued a statement saying she still suffers from “global and irreversible brain damage and remains unresponsive.”
Let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow IM on Twitter for the latest updates on Bobbi Kristina.
Footnote: A Feb. 6 story by low-flying gossip site radaronline claimed Whitney’s will contained a “secret provision” detailing how the money would be distributed. By law, wills can not contain “secret provisions.” The story is false.