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If you have been following entertainment news recently you probably know that John Singleton passed away, at the very young age of 51, in late April.

He’s celebrated a long list of achievements since his Academy Award nomination for best director, Boyz n the Hood, in 1991. Sadly, an accomplishment that never made it to the list was AN UPDATED ESTATE PLAN!

Singleton suffered a massive stroke about 2 weeks before he died. Because he was without mental capacity, court engagement began immediately.

According to several press sources, Singleton had a will drafted in 1993, naming his only child as the sole heir to his estate. Since then he added 6 more children to his family and tens of millions of dollars to his estate. As a result, his family is now engaged in a very public, expensive and messy dispute over how to disperse his assets. All of this could have been avoided, along with reducing his assumed estate tax burden, if he had updated his estateplan to include his other children and some tax planning.

Had Singleton lived longer (as many stroke patients do) the court process would have lasted for the rest of his life (while incapacitated). Remember, an estate plan does not JUST cover MONEY & THINGS or who gets what! An Advance Health Care Directive and Durable Power of Attorney for Finance state who has authority to make decisions while someone is incapacitated. Without them, family members cannot make health, finance or legal decisions without going to court. Much like Singleton’s family, your loved ones would be headed to conservatorship while you are alive and incapacitated. This process is very expensive, invasive and PUBLIC.

It is very difficult to have a loved one suffer a sudden trauma or pass away. Unfortunately, unlike many things in the real world, family drama IS as common in real life as what you see on TV. A comprehensive estate plan with effective counsel from an expert can mitigate the drama and maybe even maintain family harmony. Sadly, for Singleton’s legacy, his heirs may be fighting in probate court for a long time, spending tons of money on lawyers and presumably will have to pay millions of dollars in estate taxes.

Please take heed from those that have gone before us! We may not all be Oscar nominated directors, but most of us have family and friends who would really appreciate our guidance when we face our final moments…