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Failure to update wills could cause problems: Whitney Houston

Many Massachusetts residents have heeded advice to draw up an estate plan. However, once those documents are signed, many people put them aside and do not think about them again. Unfortunately, when wills are not reviewed periodically and updated as needed, problems can occur for those left behind after loved ones pass away.

For instance, Whitney Houston drew up her will nearly 20 years before she died. In that will, she dictated how her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, would inherit her share of the singer's fortune. Beginning at age 21, she would inherit 10 percent, which turns out to be somewhere between $12 million and $20 million.

The executors of Houston's estate have doubts that the now 21-year-old is ready to handle becoming an overnight millionaire. To make matters worse, she recently married, and family members are concerned that the man she grew up with and is now married to could be after her money. Even before Bobbi Kristina turned 21, legal action was initiated to delay her receipt of the money. Those efforts have been unsuccessful so far.

Executors claim that, later in life, Houston wanted to delay the distributions, but she did not update her will to reflect this desire. Regardless of any verbal expressions to change a will, unless the document is updated, new instructions will not be followed. Even though most Massachusetts residents do not have the kind of money Houston did, the importance of their wills is ultimately the same. The instructions in a properly drafted and executed will are to be followed regardless of any intentions to the contrary expressed by an individual. For this reason, periodic reviews of estate planning documents are recommended, which provides the opportunity to make changes as desired.

Source: Forbes, "Whitney Houston's Family Is Fighting", Danielle and Andy Mayoras, March 31, 2014

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