It’s sad when family members turn against each other over financial matters. Sad, but not rare - especially when it comes to bickering over the fortunes of celebrity super-stars.
Luckily for Whitney Houston, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that her father wasn’t “saving all [his money]” for his widow’s house.
Houston’s trip to the Third Circuit began when her step-mother, Barbara Houston, sued her in 2008 for the cool million the late John Houston left Whitney as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. Barbara claimed the money was supposed to be used to pay the loan for the New Jersey condo that she and her husband, John, had borrowed from Whitney. The leftover amount was to then go straight to Barbara.
However, the pop singer refused and counter-sued, requesting the mortgage be repaid with interest.
Since there was no written contract backing up Barbara’s claims, however, she had a tough time proving in court that there was an agreement between Whitney and her father to credit the insurance money against the mortgage. Barbara lost in trial court and subsequently lost her appeal to the Third Circuit in December.
The Third Circuit found that the “evidence in the record here would not permit a reasonable mind to conclude (or be convinced) that the existence of an oral argument was clear.” Although there were documents stating a possible agreement, none of them were signed.
The case begs the point that clients should always be reminded to sign every modification and document pertaining to an agreement, as well as plain-old estate planning.
It also begs the question why a platinum-selling recording artist would be bickering over a million dollars, especially when it means her step-mother may be kicked to the curb. Perhaps the “broke as a joke” rumors are true?
- Barbara Houston v. Whitney Houston (Third Circuit Court of Appeals)
- Case Dismissed: Alleged Murder-for-Hire Widow Can’t Get Usufruct (FindLaw’s First Circuit blog)
- Bobby Brown Arrested on Contempt Charges (FindLaw’s Law & Daily Life)