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Learning from Whitney Houston's will

Many men and women in Florida, and throughout the rest of the United States, turn their attention to the topic of estate planning when a high-profile celebrity passes away. Sadly enough, sometimes average people are more concerned about what is contained in a celebrity's will than in their own.

However, the untimely demise of a celebrity can shift a person's focus to their own mortality so they can aptly prepare. Nonetheless, average men and women can learn from the mistakes made by a celebrity in their own estate planning.

Take, for example, the late pop singer Whitney Houston. With her recent and sudden death, the process is to now sort through her estate and transfer her assets accordingly. Unlike some of the rich and famous, Houston had a will in which she named her daughter as the sole beneficiary of her assets. The will was signed in 1993, with one change made in April 2000.

Surprisingly, there are some downsides for a woman of Houston's status opting for a will rather than establishing a living trust. The main reason celebrities should not rely on just a will is because they must enter probate court in order to be effective. When entered into court, the contents of a will become public record.

A living trust can keep all this information private. You do not have to be one of the rich and famous to benefit from using living trust, though. If you are someone who values personal privacy, it might be a good route to go.

We could learn from other aspects of Houston's will, like the fact she transferred her assets to her daughter via a testamentary trust. A testamentary trust is one that is created by the will. In Houston's will, she ensured her daughter won't inherit the entire fortune at once. Instead, the distribution of Houston's estate will be spaced out until her daughter is 30-years-old. Allowances will be made if Houston's daughter goes onto college or decides to purchase a home, along with other scenarios.

Source: Forbes, "Whitney Houston's will was far from perfect," Danielle and Andy Mayoras, March 15, 2012

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