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Houston's death a reminder to keep trusts, wills, updated

In the wake of the passing of singer Whitney Houston, some have begun to speculate about whether the pop superstar and New Jersey native had ensured that all of her estate planning documents were kept up to date.

It is reported in some media outlets, citing family friends, that Houston did have a will when she died Feb. 11. The reports say that the main beneficiary of the estate, as listed in her will, is the singer's 18-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown. One estate planning attorney is quoted by InvestmentNews.com as saying that he hopes Houston also set up a revocable trust, or series of trusts, funded by her estate.

The direct question he poses is whether it's wise for someone of Houston's wealth and means to leave all her assets to an 18-year-old person in a single, lump sum.

As a general rule, estate planning attorneys recognize that clients who enjoy significant asset growth because of earning potential or their money's earning potential, owe it to themselves and their heirs to create insurance policies to fund trusts. In addition, they should make a point of updating their documents every couple of years to take into account changes of life.

In the case of Houston, such a change would have been marked by her tumultuous 2006 divorce from singer Bobby Brown.

Other life events that could color the provisions of wills and trusts, and which should trigger an update, would include the birth of a child, a change of residence to another state or a remarriage.

One doesn't have to be excessively wealthy to deal with these kinds of things. Anyone who has anything that is valuable to them, and which they want to protect for inheritance's sake, owes it to him or herself and the beneficiaries to make clear their desires and intentions through estate planning tools such as wills and trusts.

Source: InvestmentNews.com, "Whitney Houston: Estate planning lesson in a sad, untimely death," Liz Skinner, Feb. 19, 2012

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