"There's an incredibly large emotional component," estate planning attorney Nathan E. Arnell tells PEOPLE

By Patrick Gomez
February 21, 2015 12:00 AM
Kevin Mazur/AMA2009/WireImage

Bobbi Kristina Brown‘s death has left her family in mourning – and questions as to what will happen to her mother Whitney Houston‘s fortune.

In a will drafted about 20 years ago, Houston – who was found dead in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills in 2013 – named Bobbi Kristina sole heir to the estate, with a few stipulations.

Instead of inheriting Houston s fortune all at once, the will stipulated that Bobbi Kristina would receive 10 percent when she turned 21-years-old, 30 percent at 25-years-old, and the remainder at age 30.

Because Bobbi Kristina was only 21-years-old at the time of her death, she would only have been entitled to have received 10 percent of Houston’s money before she died. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the fortune was completely out of reach.

Per the will, the remainder of the money sat in a trust, and the trustee – in this case, Houston’s sister-in-law Pat Houston – had the discretion to use that money for Bobbi Kristina’s benefit “at any time, in any amount,” according to Nathan E. Arnell, an estate planning attorney who has read a copy of Houston’s will but has no relation to any party involved.

Upon the event that Bobbi Kristina died, her mother’s will states that the money be “amicably divided” among Whitney’s brothers Michael and Gary Houston and her mother Cissy Houston. Whitney s father John Houston was entitled to an equal share as well, but he died in 2003.

But “if the trustee determined that they thought [Bobbi Kristina] was going to die and the right person to get the money was [Bobbi Kristina’s "husband" Nick Gordon], they could give all the money out of the trust to [Bobbi Kristina],” says Arnell. “Then, when she died, the money would pass by her will.”

But to complicate matters, Gordon and Bobbi Kristina were never legally wed. And even if they had been, Arnell says Cissy, Michael and Gary could fight making Gordon the beneficiary.

“They might [tell the trustee,] ‘You had the power to do it, but it was the wrong thing to do because it didn’t really benefit Bobbi Kristina,’ ” says Arnell. “And [Bobbi Kristina] herself may have already changed what’s going to happen because she might have done a will and said, ‘I leave it to charity. I leave it to Grandma.’ Or whatever.”

If Bobbi Kristina did not have a will, the beneficiary of even the 10 percent of the fortune that has already been released to the 21-years-old could be contested, though it would “likely go to her father or potentially split between her father and her grandmother [Cissy,] says Arnell.

Whatever happens, “there’s an incredibly large emotional component when it comes to estate litigation,” he says.

Reporting by JACQUELINE ANDRIAKOS

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