Nobody expected Hollywood director John Singleton to die in April 2019 at the age of 51. Unfortunately, Singleton suffered a stroke that ultimately claimed the life of the unmarried father. In the months since his death, it has been reported that he apparently did not have a current estate plan in place. If Singleton had prepared and funded one or more revocable Trusts during his lifetime, his estate would have largely escaped public scrutiny, as probate court proceedings would not have been required. However, it seems he never took that step.
Singleton’s mother filed to open an estate with the probate court, providing a Will Singleton wrote in 1993 – apparently the most recent estate planning document he prepared. While Singleton’s estate is estimated by some websites to be as large as $35 million, probate court filings value it at approximately $3.8 million – a more modest sum, but still a sizable estate. Those assets will now be subject to the publicity, potential time delays, and expenses that come part and parcel with matters that must wind their way through probate court.
It appears there could also be challenges when it comes to identifying who Singleton’s heirs are. At the time the original Will was written, Singleton had just one child. However, according to probate court filings, he had at least five children. It turns out he may have actually had as many as seven children; the application for probate identifies two minors as “alleged daughters.”
Unfortunately for Singleton’s children, his estate is unlikely to be settled and distributed any time soon. This case emphasizes the importance of making sure your estate plan is current and reflects your wishes. Creating a Will or Trust is a good first step, but when people take a “set it and forget it” mentality toward estate planning, there is a high likelihood that those estate planning documents will not ultimately accomplish the intended goals.
The Estate Planning & Legacy Law Center can help you minimize the risk that your loved ones will become embroiled in drawn-out, public estate battles. To learn more and create or update your own estate planning documents, contact us today.