Whitney Houston died last weekend. The singer and actress had strong ties to Atlanta. She and her ex-husband owned a home here, and she recorded a couple of albums here. Some news outlets are reporting that Houston's mother wants her to be buried here, too. And, Houston's adopted son Nick lives in the area.
Houston took the boy in as a child and raised him as her own, but it is unknown if the adoption was legal or informal. Nick is now 22 years old, and he is reportedly very close to Houston's 18-year-old daughter. He made headlines himself when he got involved in a fight between Houston's daughter and her boyfriend. He faced criminal charges for possessing a gun, and he insisted he was merely trying to protect his sister.
The adoption question may seem moot now that both Nick and Houston's daughter are legal adults. Unlike Michael Jackson's minor children, these kids don't need a guardian to look after them. There won't be a custody battle between grandparents; Nick's biological parents won't stake a claim to his inheritance.
Even as an adult, Nick's relationship to Houston could have an impact on his inheritance. For example, if Houston had a simple will that left everything to her "surviving child(ren)," he would be included -- if Houston had legally adopted him. If not, he would have to challenge the will to get his share. (Mind you, this is all speculation; we have no information about Houston's estate plan.)
This situation comes up more often than you'd think. The "surviving child(ren)" language has been out of favor for some time, but stepchildren will find themselves in Nick's position. It can get ugly, too. Say a woman has a son by her first husband. They divorce, and she marries again. She and her new husband have a child together. If the stepparent does not adopt the child from the first marriage and does not have a crystal clear estate plan, the couple's child could inherit everything, and the stepchild could be left out in the cold.
The particulars of Houston's relationship with Nick aren't known -- at least, not known to the public. At this time, the family is focused on funeral arrangements and the health of Houston's daughter. Perhaps more details will emerge in the future.
Source: ChristianPost.com, "Whitney Houston's 'Secret Son' Nick Breaks His Silence," Benge Nsenduluka, Feb. 14, 2012