Jenny Rozelle, Host of Legal Tea
Celebrity Estate Planning - Barry White - Episode 89
Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners! This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. Today, we’re on the “estate planning of the rich and famous” topic and for today’s episode, we’re going to dive into the super well-known singer and songwriter, Barry White. Now, many of my Legal Tea Listeners know who Barry White is, but in case any of my, say, younger Listeners need a refresher, a few of his most popular songs were: “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Baby” … “You’re the First, My Last, My Everything” and how about … “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up.” Really, the height of his career was arguably in the 1970s, but in the 1980s and 1990s, his following remained, he just didn’t have quite the “big hits” as he had in the 70s. I say that, but he had a bit hit in the 1990s, too, called “Practice What You Preach.” Anyway, we could be here all day talking about his songs … so, there sure is a lot we can learn from Barry’s estate, but first, as always, let’s gain a better understanding of him as a person, first, before we dive into his estate stuff.
According to his Wikipedia page, by the age of 19, Barry had married his “childhood sweetheart” named Mary. Oddly enough, we don’t really know “who” Mary is because she was simply identified Mary in his autobiography – no last name. Nothing else. They ended up separating in 1969 and eventually got divorced. A handful of years later, in 1974, Barry married fellow singer, Glodean James. Together, they put out an album in 1981 titled, not very creatively, Barry & Glodean Though, in 1988, the couple separated, but here’s the thing … they never got officially divorced. They simply remained separated … until Barry’s passing in 2003.
Kids. Okay. Well, Barry had, according to his Wikipedia page, “at least nine children.” That’s a head-scratcher, right? Well, he definitely had four children with Mary, his first wife, and four children with Glodean, his second wife. Around the time of Barry’s separation from Glodean, which was in 1988, he found out that he had fathered a child “back in the day” in 1962 – so that is a ninth child. After Barry passed, his then-girlfriend, Katherine Denton, claimed her infant daughter was Barry’s biological child; though, after testing, he was confirmed that he was not the father of the child. So, maybe “at least nine children” simply means that is the number that are, indeed, confirmed to be his children.
Barry did not live the healthiest lifestyle in the world. As his Wikipedia states, Barry was “overweight for most of his adult life and suffered from related health problems. He was also known to be a heavy smoker, reportedly smoking approximately 150 cigarettes a day, roughly between 7 and 8 packets.” Whoa. That’s a lot of cigarettes. After a stroke in 1995 and another one in 2003 (while he was awaiting a kidney transplant), his continued bad health prevented him from getting a new kidney – that same year, on July 4, 2003, he sadly passed away after suffering cardiac arrest at the age of 58 years old.
So now, let’s shift to Barry and what happened estate-wise following his passing…
Usually, about this point in an episode, I announce whether the celebrity had an estate plan. I’m embarrassed how much time I spent looking at no less than probably 40 articles … some state Barry had a Will, but it was updated. And some state he died without a Will. MORE said he didn’t have a Will, but then I’m not really sure why the ones that said he DID have a Will would say that. So, for the sake of my sanity and time, I gave up. I say all that about whether or not he had a Will, but even whether Barry had a Will or not, there was still plenty of drama and headaches – but that was of Barry’s failure at doing a plan at all or keeping his estate plan up-to-date. One of the biggest issues in the Barry White estate case involved his rather complicated relationship with his second wife, Glodean.
If you remember, when I was talking about Barry and his spouses, he was LAST married to Glodean, but they had merely separated and not actually gotten a divorce – I say that, but he had definitely moved on and was seeing that lady named Katherine Denton, remember? According to a blog from Peterson Law Office in Bloomington, Minnesota, Barry and Katherine had been together for nine years (NINE years – so it was not like he and Glodean were briefly separated … it was a rather long time). He and Katherine were even living together. So, while he may have felt like Glodean was a thing of the past, Glodean was NOT a thing of the past from an estate planning perspective. I feel like I should say … dun! Dun! Dun!
Because technically speaking, Glodean was Barry’s legal spouse – she, according to their state laws, was the rightful heir of Barry’s estate. Now that, of course, angered Katherine and to no one’s surprise, Katherine sued Glodean. According to a website, AmoMama, Katherine argued that “she needed to continue living her life of luxury, one that the entertainer [Barry] afforded.” The website further shares that Katherine “alleged [Barry] told her she would have enough money to live off for the rest of her life and could continue to live in their house in Los Angeles.” In the Court filings, Katherine’s lawyers argued that it would “fulfill the deceased’s intentions.”
The “conclusion” if that’s what we want to call it with this whole Glodean-Katherine debacle was that Glodean got to keep his Estate. Whether that was fair or not, that really doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, there’s the letter of the law – and if the law gave Barry’s estate to his wife, Glodean, then the “deceased’s intent” which was not written down is meaningless. If we let something like that slide in and hold up, can you imagine the can of worms that would open up? Oh my gosh, I can! Anyway, Glodean could have been really by-the-book and could have kicked Katherine out of the house, but surprisingly, according to an article on Medium.com, Glodean allowed Katherine to continue to live in the house – but she received nothing else of significant value.
The drama and headaches didn’t stop there, though!
After Barry passed and during/after the Glodean/Katherine stuff happened, stuff happened estate-wise with Barry’s children. I’ll quickly mention two things that happened kids-wise. So, first, when I mentioned earlier about Katherine’s young child, that she claimed was Barry’s, but it got confirmed that the child was not Barry’s biologically. Well, that got confirmed AFTER Barry passed away. Through the Glodean/Katherine stuff happening, that’s when Katherine tried to claim her child was Barry’s – the Court made her get a DNA test and that’s when it got confirmed that it was not Barry’s biological child.
A second thing kiddo-wise that happened was not one, but two of his kids caused a stink – one was Barry’s son, Daryl White, and remember the child that he found out about much later in life? The other child was her; for reference, her name is Denise. Anyway, so both of these kids, basically alleged that they, essentially, deserved money from the Estate. Daryl, according to the AmoMama website, said he “sued with claims that he was living the life of a needy and homeless man due to failed promises [of Glodean] of giving him a fair share” of the Estate. And Denise argued that her Dad, Barry, let her “use his homes and cars, and she was hired to assist him.” She further shared that she continued to receive money and privileges until 2013 (which keep in mind, Barry died 10 years earlier), when things abruptly stopped.
Like I said a few minutes ago, many articles I read in my research conflicted with each other – whether on major things (like a Will or no Will), but there were a few smaller things, too. Like, a few made mention of a Barry White Trust. In some of the articles I read about those two kids and their money “suddenly stopping” supposedly, those payments came from the Barry White Trust. I looked and looked and looked for more information on this Trust, but I have to wonder if Glodean put together a Trust after she received Barry’s Estate and since Glodean is very much still alive, we won’t really know much of its contents until after she passes…maybe. We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess!
So, as we begin to round this episode up, I think there are two big takeaways here. First, it probably goes without being said, but Legal Tea Listeners, relationships and marriages are really important. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Barry and Glodean were still legally married … so the fact that his health began to fail and no one really thought of that, makes me scratch my head. Maybe it’s because I do this estate stuff for a living, but seriously no one thought about the marriage to Glodean and how that may impact his estate if/when he passed? Or maybe they did, and maybe Barry thought, “Oh things will work themselves out.” Who knows. I wasn’t there. You weren’t there. We can only guess. Though, if it’s time to #DoYourEstatePlan and if you have some unique relationships in your life, be sure to let your estate planning attorney know. Heck, this even makes my brain think of things like child – what does the world “child” mean? If you have step-children or step-grandchildren, without an estate plan in place, they’re probably not going to “count.” So yeah, relationships, generally speaking, are super important to know and understand in my world!
The second takeaway is another simple one – keep your estate plan updated. What’s the saying? Change is the only constant! I think people don’t know HOW MUCH goes on in the life directly impacts my little estate world – so if you haven’t had your estate plan (and assets that support your estate plan) reviewed in a while, it’s probably a good idea to just make you have your ducks in a row. Estate planning is definitely one of those things that could become “too late” to address. For sure. I unfortunately see it all the time. Barry White waited too long … whether he had a Will or not, nonetheless – what was left was arguably a mess. And it became too late.
Alrighty, I think we’re ready to wrap this episode up, shall we? Next week we’re back to a “cautionary tale” episode where we talk about real-life clients, real-life cases that I, or my office, have worked on. During that episode, we’re going to be talking about things someone should consider if you HAVE done an estate plan – then a divorce happens. Not only are we going to be talking about things to consider, but also things you should do, too, to make sure you estate and estate plan come out on the other side just as clean. So, tune in for that next week, but until then, Legal Tea Listeners,– take care and be well!