Representatives of Whitney Houston filed her Will in an Atlanta probate court this week, beginning the probate process that will transfer Ms. Houston’s estate property to new owners. While Ms. Houston’s Will appears to be legally valid, and experts do not anticipate a contested probate hearing, there are several questions we can ask about her Will and the terms it contains that can help us as we create our own last Wills and testaments.
Question 1: Can I leave my property to anyone I choose?
Answer: Yes. Generally speaking, you have the right to choose anyone who will receive your gifts of property after you die. Because Ms. Houston was not married at the time of her death, and because her only child was an adult, she was under no requirement to leave anyone any property. She chose to leave her entire estate to her daughter, but she was under no legal obligation to do so.
Question 2: Can I change my Will?
Answer: Yes. Ms. Houston wrote her Will in 1993. She also created a codicil in 2000 and 2004. A codicil is simply a legal term for an amendment made to an already created Will. As long as you create a codicil that complies with the laws of your state, you can change whatever you wish.
Question 3. Do I have to give away all my property at once?
Answer: No. Ms. Houston’s Will directs that her daughter receives her inheritance in portions at the ages of 21, 25, and 30. The Will dictates that until she receives that property it will be managed by a trust, which will be managed by a trustee that Ms. Houston selected in her Will.