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Director's untimely death highlights need for estate plan

When a celebrity passes away with chaos in their estate, it can drive home the importance of writing a will and other estate documents. California director John Singleton was broadly celebrated for his unique vision and style. However, he repeatedly delayed writing a will or making a trust, family members say. After he died unexpectedly at 51 in April 2019 due to a stroke, family members found that the only estate document he left behind was an old will written in 1993. He was not married when he passed away, but he is survived by at least five children. The paternity of two minor girls remains in dispute. He had only one child at the time the will was written.

Singleton's family members have disagreed openly about his medical treatment, plans for his estate and the triggers behind his stroke. Given the divisions that already exist in the family, the lack of a clear estate plan may only encourage infighting that could lead to wasting a substantial portion of the director's estate. Many people with wealth can benefit from creating trusts. These allow people to pass on their property with a higher level of privacy and without going through the probate courts.

According to probate court documents submitted by Singleton's mother, he left behind an estate worth $3.8 million. However, others have speculated that his estate could have been worth as much as $35 million. Speculation has centered on the idea that he may have left an undisclosed trust, but most attorneys will create a pour-over will at the same time to fill in any gaps and pass on remaining property.

Wills and trusts are useful for people of all income levels, not only celebrities. An estate planning lawyer may help people prepare estate documents that reflect their wishes for the future.

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