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Whitney Houston death demonstrates the need for estate planning

Anytime someone dies prematurely there is sadness and grief for all who lost a loved one. What may compound that grief is the lack of an estate plan that can provide guidance for the survivors to follow their loved ones wishes. Whenever a celebrity passes away prematurely it can be a great educational opportunity to discuss the importance of planning ahead for the unexpected events in life, especially when children are involved. The untimely death of Whitney Houston is a sad reminder of how important an estate plan is for any family.

There have been no concrete reports of what condition Whitney Houston's estate might have been in, however according to press reports she had a will that names her only child as the main beneficiary. Since her child is only 18-years old one would hope that her estate plan included a revocable trust, or perhaps a series of trusts that were continuously funded by the assets in Ms. Houston's estate. If not her 18-year old child could inherit everything in one lump sum, which may not be the best option for someone so young.

One question to ask your estate planning attorney is how often beneficiaries need to be updated as your life changes. In this case one wonders if Ms. Houston updated her beneficiaries when she divorced her now ex-husband Bobbi Brown. Any number of events in life, including divorce can trigger a change in your estate plan.

The importance of updating an estate plan, including trusts and wills every few years is a major factor in the proper administration of any estate plan. People come and go, get married and remarried, move out of state and so forth and when these events occur few people consider the impact they many have on their estate plan.

The report stated that a number of music industry icons have passed away without a will, including Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Sonny Bono and John Denver. Anytime a famous person passes away it is a good opportunity to remind people, no matter the size or complexity of your estate, it is never too soon to consider a proper estate plan that includes guardianships, wills and trusts.

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

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