Forbes: Did you know that family gatherings during the holidays are a great time to talk about celebrities, such as Whitney Houston, and how they can help your family avoid fighting when someone dies?
This is Part 2 of Trial & Heirs’ Top 5 Celebrity-Based Estate Planning Conversation Starters for Thanksgiving 2011:
(Did you miss Part 1? Click here.)
3. Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston has been locked in a vicious court battle with her step-mother over a $1 million life insurance policy from Whitney’s father, which named Whitney as the sole beneficiary. Whitney’s step-mother, Barbara, sued Whitney and claimed the money was meant for her, not Whitney. Whitney had lent her father money and held a private mortgage over his home, which Barbara received when Whitney’s father died in 2003. Barbara said the life insurance was meant to repay that money and Whitney was supposed to release the mortgage and turn the rest of the life insurance money over to Barbara.
So did Whitney agree that the money was to repay the mortgage, allowing Barbara to keep the house free and clear? Heck no! She counter-sued Barbara, and said the life insurance was meant to repay other money she had lent her father. She asked the court to evict Barbara and used the counter-suit as a time to point out to the world, in a public court record, that Barbara was 40 years younger than Whitney’s father and met him as a maid cleaning his house.
A federal court judge in New Jersey ruled in favor of Whitney and dismissed Barbara’s lawsuit. But Barbara appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals just heard oral arguments about the case a few days ago (just in time for Thanksgiving, in fact). Barbara had some written evidence to support her claims. Will the appellate judges agree with her that the trial judge wrongly ignored that evidence in throwing out her case?