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Whitney Houston's Family, Cousin Dionne Warwick Divided Over Burial

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on February 15, 2012 5:05 AM

Singer Whitney Houston's funeral is set for Saturday in her native New Jersey. But a dispute about where Houston will be buried is pitting her famous mother and cousin Dionne Warwick against the rest of her family, reports say.

Whitney Houston's mother Cissy, 78, and Warwick, 71, wanted the late singer to be buried in Atlanta, where many of her fondest memories took place, the website TMZ reports. Other relatives want Houston buried in her native New Jersey.

The dispute suggests Whitney Houston's burial preferences were not specified in writing. There is a way to do that -- but the best way may not be via a will.

Because a will goes through the probate process, it may not be read -- or even accessible -- for weeks or months after a person dies. While that may be OK for non-time-sensitive issues like property distribution, the delay could create problems for funeral and burial plans.

Separate from a will, lawyers suggest creating a "Final Arrangements" or "Last Wishes" document to spell out your burial preferences. This document should be signed and dated by you, and perhaps even a witness. It should also be kept in a safe place that will be easy to find.

A "Final Arrangements" document can cover issues like burial or cremation, what kind of final rites you want performed at your funeral or burial, and even payment arrangements. You may want to check with an estate-planning lawyer to make sure you're not overlooking anything.

If your "Last Wishes" are not in writing, and you have not clearly communicated your wishes to your loved ones, state law may fill the void by assigning a surviving relative -- usually a spouse or children -- to make funeral and burial decisions.

For Whitney Houston's burial, her Grammy-winning mother Cissy and famous singer cousin Dionne Warwick apparently backed down from their push for an Atlanta burial. The late singer will instead be buried in her hometown of Newark, N.J., TMZ reports.

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