It is sad for us to see that in the wake of rapper Nipsey Hussle’s murder, is family and his ex-girlfriend are locked in a bitter battle for the custody of one of his children. This ugly tableau highlights why parents desperately need estate planning.
Hussle, 34, whose given name was Ermias Ashgedom, was gunned down outside his South Los Angeles clothing store in March. His alleged killer, Eric Holder, was arrested and indicted for murder a few days later. The rapper’s death is particularly tragic, as his debut album, Victory Lap, was recently nominated for a Grammy Award.
Unfortunately, his tragedy does not end there. Because Hussle never named legal guardians, the decision of who will raise his two children—daughter Emani, 10, and son Kross, 2—is now up to the court. In fact, Hussle failed to create a will at all, which makes their guardianship even more contentious. Hussle’s estate is estimated to be worth $2 million and under California law, in the absence of a will, that money is to be split equally between his two kids.
Given that both children are minors, they’re ineligible to access their inheritance until they reach the age of majority. This means that whomever ultimately wins guardianship of the children will likely gain control over their money as well.
Caught in the middle
Guardianship of Hussle’s son Kross, while still undecided, is currently not a source of conflict. Kross’s mother is actress Lauren London, who was Hussle’s longtime girlfriend, and Kross had been living with London at the time of his father’s death. She petitioned the court for her son’s guardianship, and there’s little doubt she’ll get it.
Who will be awarded guardianship of Hussle’s daughter Emani, however, is far less clear.
Since the day of the shooting, Hussle’s sister, Samantha Smith, has been caring for Emani, who was living with her father when he was killed. Like London, following Hussle’s shooting Smith petitioned the court to obtain Emani’s guardianship. But Emani’s mother, Tanisha Foster, an old girlfriend of Hussle’s, is also seeking guardianship.
Though Foster and Hussle shared custody of Emani, at the time of the rapper’s death, Hussle’s ex had reportedly not seen the child in months. On her side, Foster claims that Emani was just visiting her dad on the day he was killed and that Smith and the rest of Hussle’s family are refusing to return her.
Smith and Hussle’s family contend that Foster is unfit to raise the child due to her criminal past. Foster has a criminal record dating back to 2006, and she currently has a warrant out for her arrest after skipping a court hearing for a DUI charge. Foster claims that her criminal history is irrelevant, and that as Emani’s mother, she’s the one who should be named as guardian. She’s also claiming that Smith unlawfully took custody of her daughter on the day of Hussle’s shooting.
For now, the court is siding with Smith, ruling in May that Hussle’s sister can retain temporary custody of Emani, pending a final decision on her guardianship. That decision will likely be made in a court hearing scheduled for October.
Don’t leave your child’s life in a judge’s hands
As Hussle’s case so dramatically demonstrates, your death can strike at any time so if you’re the parent of minor children, it’s imperative that you make selecting and legally documenting long-term guardians for your kids your top priority.
While the fact that Hussle didn’t create a will is a mistake, when it comes to your children’s lives all the money in the world is meaningless in comparison. For this reason, we’re going to focus solely on the consequences resulting from Hussle’s failure to name legal guardians and how easily the whole ugly mess could have been avoided.
As in the case of Hussle’s children, leaving it up to the court to name guardians for your kids can lead to conflict. This process is not only costly, but it can be terribly traumatizing for everyone involved, especially your kids. Emani and Kross have just lost their father and because there were no plans put into place for their care, they now have to deal with the stress of court. Even Kross, who’s custody is uncontested, still has to wait before his mother can legally be his guardian.
This shows how agonizingly slow this process often is. There have already been numerous court hearings related to Emani’s custody since her father’s death in March and though the October hearing could finally decide her fate, it’s just as likely that the decision could be postponed again. There are times when these custody battles drag on for years, making the lawyers wealthy while your kids are stuck in the middle.
And worst of all is that Hussle has no input into what happens to his kids. Though we can’t be sure exactly who Hussle would have wanted to raise Emani and Kross, it’s almost certain he wouldn’t have wanted a total stranger to make that decision for him. Yet, because he didn’t take the time to document legal guardians, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Kids Protection Plan®
As your Personal Family Lawyer®, helping you select and legally document long-term guardians for your children is one of our specialties. The founder of the Personal Family Lawyer® program, Alexis Katz, wrote a best-selling book on the subject titled Wear Clean Underwear!: A Fast, Fun, Friendly and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents.
As a mother and one of the country’s leading estate-planning experts for families, Alexis was shocked to discover that the plan she created for her own daughter under the traditional planning model would have left her child at risk of being taken into the care of strangers if anything happened to her and her husband. To address this gap in her plan, Alexis created a unique system known as the Kids Protection Plan®.
The system is a comprehensive methodology to guide you step-by step through the process of legally documenting guardians for your kids for the short-term, long-term, and so much more. As a Personal Family Lawyer® firm, we’ve been trained to support you to put in place the Kids Protection Plan® for your minor children and/or children with special needs.
Get started immediately
Because naming legal guardians for your kids is so critical, you can’t afford to wait to get the process started. That’s why we’ve created an easy-to-use and absolutely free Kids Protection Plan® website you can visit right now to create legal documents naming the long-term guardians you’d want to care for your children if you could not.
If you have minor children—or children with long-term special needs—living at home, you should immediately use this resource or contact us directly to get started. Scheduling a follow-up visit with us to put a full Kids Protection Plan® in place will become your next step to protecting your kids properly, because the numerous resources offered in the full plan go far beyond just naming long-term legal guardians.
The Kids Protection Plan® also lets you grant the people you choose, along with backups, the legal authority to temporarily care for your children, until the long-term guardians can be located and formally named by the court. You’re also able to exclude any person you know you’d never want to raise your kids from being able to do so.
The full Kids Protection Plan® offers a broad array of protective measures and materials designed to provide for the well-being, care, and love of your kids no matter what happens. Meet with us as your Personal Family Lawyer® today to ensure that your children and family never fall victim to the same tragic circumstances as Hussle’s.
This article is a service of Levi Alexander, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.