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Barry White wearing a blue jean shirt

Legendary singer Barry White's estate plan left his loved ones crying foul

by Legacy Plan
September 22, 2023

Barry White, the legendary soul singer known for his velvety smooth voice and romantic ballads, had 20 gold and 10 platinum singles to his credit and sold more than 10 million records in the course of his career. He became one of the best-selling musical artists of all time and is best known for his two biggest hits, “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” and “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything.”

While White had reached the pinnacle of the popular music world during the height of his success in the 1970s and '80s, his legacy hit a sour note with his loved ones following his death because of several shortcomings with his estate plan.

Despite his immense success and fame, White's estate planning oversights led to a series of complications and family disputes following his untimely death in 2003.

One of the primary problems that arose from White's estate plan was his outdated last will and testament. This was especially troublesome because White had been separated, but not divorced, from his second wife, Glodean, although he was in a long-term relationship at the time of his death with his latest partner, Katherine Denton.

Also, the absence of clear communication – as well as legal paperwork – regarding beneficiaries led to numerous legal challenges to White's estate plan. He reportedly made verbal promises to family members about inheriting specific assets or receiving financial assistance after his passing; however, these verbal agreements were not supported by legal documents. Family disharmony ensued as different individuals claimed they were entitled to certain possessions or assets mentioned in these unofficial promises.

Since White remained technically married to Glodean at his passing, she remained the rightful heir to his $20 million estate. Katherine, despite her long-term relationship as White’s partner, was left without any share of the inheritance. Further complicating matters was the fact White was the father of nine children.

In her quest for a rightful share, Katherine initiated legal proceedings against Glodean. According to media reports, Katherine had always been under the impression, through assurances from White, that she would be financially secure and could continue living in their Los Angeles residence. In addition, she had given birth to a daughter, Brianna, just a month before White’s passing. However, a court-mandated DNA test for the newborn revealed that White wasn't her biological father. Although Glodean permitted Katherine to reside in the house they shared, Katherine didn't inherit any significant portion of the estate.

Another twist in the tale was when White eldest daughter, Denise, learned that White executed his will eight years before she was born. When Denise approached Glodean with her claim of being an overlooked heir, Denise was assured of her share alongside other beneficiaries. Another aspect that went awry with White's estate plan was the lack of proper trust arrangements. Over the next decade, Denise received irregular disbursements from the White Family Trust, totaling over $350,000. But the payments ceased.

In a parallel situation, the singer’s son Daryl also initiated legal proceedings against Glodean. Daryl sought to view his father's will and get a proper accounting of the estate. He alleged that Glodean had been assuring him of his rightful inheritance and had promised periodic disbursements. However, after a decade, these payments became inconsistent and eventually stopped.

In a nutshell, the legal quagmire and family disharmony involving White’s estate stems from the singer’s failure to review and revise his estate planning documents as circumstances in his life changed.

Why is it important to update your will?

attorney presenting a last will and testament labeled outdated

One of the most critical aspects of estate planning is ensuring that your will is regularly updated. Many people may overlook this crucial step, assuming that once they have created their will, they are done with the process. However, failing to update your will can have significant consequences and may result in unintended outcomes for your inheritance. One reason it is important to update your will is to account for any changes in your family situation.

Life is full of surprises and unexpected events, such as births, deaths, marriages, divorces or estrangements. White’s family would agree that failing to update your will and other estate planning documents in light of these changes can lead to complications and disputes among your loved ones after you are gone.

By regularly reviewing and updating your will, you can ensure that it accurately reflects your current family dynamics and clearly states how you want your estate distributed. Another crucial factor to consider when updating your will is changes in the law.

Regularly reviewing and updating your will ensures that it remains compliant with the latest laws and allows you to optimize its structure for maximum benefit. Additionally, updating a will can help prevent potential contestation by disgruntled heirs or beneficiaries who feel they were unfairly treated by an outdated document.

When a person passes away without providing clear instructions on asset distribution or fails to include recently acquired assets in their estate plan, it could create confusion or resentment among family members during an already emotionally challenging time. An updated will provides clarity and minimizes the chances of family disharmony caused by confusion over inheritance intentions.

By regularly reviewing and updating your will, you can ensure that your wishes are accurately reflected and minimize the risk of contested legal battles or family disputes after your passing. Don't leave anything to chance; make it a priority to review and update your will periodically to protect both your legacy and the well-being of those you care about.

What happens when a will is contested?

court document labeled with Undue influence

Contesting a will refers to the legal process of challenging the validity or terms of a deceased person's will. This can occur for various reasons, such as when family members believe they were unfairly left out of the will, suspect undue influence or coercion, question the deceased's mental capacity when signing the will or claim that fraud was involved. When a loved one or an heir contests a will, it can lead to significant emotional stress and family disharmony.

One common reason for contesting a will is when family members feel they were promised certain assets or inheritances that were not reflected in the final document. In such cases, it is essential to have clear evidence of these promises.

This could include written correspondence, witness testimony or even recordings that substantiate the claims. However, it's important to note that verbal promises alone may not hold up in court without supporting evidence.

Contesting a will often requires hiring an attorney who specializes in estate planning and probate law. The attorney can review the legal documents surrounding the creation and execution of the will and evaluate whether there are valid grounds for contestation.

It is crucial to act promptly as there are strict time limits within which a will can be contested after it has been admitted into probate. When loved ones contest a will, it can cause significant delays in settling an estate and result in costly legal battles.

By seeking the guidance of an experienced attorney and ensuring your wishes are clearly documented, you can minimize the likelihood of loved ones contesting your will and protect the harmony of your family during a difficult time.

What estate planning lessons can we learn from White’s mistakes?

In examining the estate planning mistakes made by the late White, there are valuable lessons to be learned. Again, one crucial lesson is the importance of updated legal documents.

Another significant lesson from White's mistakes relates to family disharmony. When it comes to estate planning, it is vital to consider potential conflicts that may arise among family members after your passing.

In White's case, his children contested his will due to alleged promises he had made regarding their inheritance. This serves as a reminder that clear communication within the family about one's intentions can help prevent future disputes and misunderstandings.

What are advantages of a trust?

Utilizing trusts allows individuals to distribute assets according to specific instructions while minimizing publicity through probate court proceedings that can attract unwanted attention from both the media and potential contesters. Trusts provide a level of privacy and control not offered by wills alone.

Considering the use of trusts in estate planning can be an important lesson derived from White's case.


The unfortunate estate planning mistakes made by the legendary Barry White serve as a cautionary tale for individuals from all walks of life. It is crucial to regularly review and update your legal documents, especially your will, to ensure that your wishes are accurately reflected and accounted for. Failing to do so can lead to disputes, contests and family disharmony after you are gone.

One of the most significant lessons we can learn from White's missteps is the importance of seeking professional advice when it comes to estate planning. While it may be tempting to rely on promises made between loved ones or hastily drafted wills from an online do-it-yourself service, it is essential to engage with an experienced estate planning attorney. They can guide you through the complexities of establishing trusts, minimizing taxes and ensuring that your assets are distributed as you desire.

How do I create an estate plan?

There are numerous options and scenarios to consider when developing an estate plan that protects your legacy and achieves your objectives, and important decisions should be made with the advice of qualified lawyers and financial experts. Membership with Legacy Assurance Plan provides members with valuable resources and guidance to develop comprehensive estate plans that take life's contingencies into consideration and leave a positive impact for generations to come. Legacy Assurance Plan members also receive peace of mind that a team of trusted, experienced professionals will assist them in developing legal, financial and tax strategies that will meet their needs today and for years to come through periodic reviews.

This article is published by Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at

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