Bobbi is dead. Was she murdered? Who will get Whitney’s fortune?

Bobbi Kristina Brown, 22, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, died today after several months in a medically-induced coma. Like her mother, she apparently drowned in a bathtub — and controversy immediately began swirling about how it happened and whether drugs were involved.

The case is tabloid fodder because of the family’s celebrity status and whiffs of scandal. The question of who will now get Whitney Houston’s $115 million fortune also has some echoes of the Anna Nicole Smith case.

Bobbi’s parents divorced before her mother’s death, and Houston made Bobbi the sole heir of her estate. Who  gets that money now depends on whether (1) Bobbi was married and/or (2)  left a will. She and family friend Nick Gordon claimed to have married last year, but her lawyer disputes that. If Gordon is in fact her legal husband, then he likely will get her entire estate, with or without a will. But if they weren’t married, and she didn’t have a will, then the law of intestate succession will apply and my guess is it’ll go to her father.

It was Gordon who found Brown unconscious in the bathtub, and for months TMZ has made him out to be a suspect, claiming her body was bruised. TMZ is now calling the case “a murder investigation.” See here and here. Let’s play with a hypothetical here. California, like many other states, has enacted a law that prevents killers from inheriting from their victims. This applies regardless of whether the killer would inherit the victim’s estate by will or intestacy. Thus, if Gordon were to be convicted of murdering Bobbi, he couldn’t inherit the Houston estate from her, even if they were married and/or she named him in her will.

Whitney Houston left nothing to Bobbi’s father; she didn’t want him to get a penny of her fortune. That’s not surprising, given they were divorced, and there were allegations against him of infidelity and domestic violence during their 14-year marriage. But that money is no longer Houston’s property, it’s Bobbi Brown’s property, and under intestacy it would go to Bobby Brown not because he’s Whitney’s ex-husband but because he’s Bobbi’s father, and therefore her next of kin.

With more than $100 million up for grabs, expect a battle royale over Bobbi’s estate. The ironies here are delicious, and no doubt will keep the tabloid presses humming for years to come.

1024px-Flickr_Whitney_Houston_performing_on_GMA_2009_5Photo: Bobbi Brown and Whitney Houston; now mother and daughter are both gone. 

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