Some Nevada fans of director John Singleton may be aware that after his sudden death in April 2019 from a stroke, his family discovered that his estate plan was out of date. Singleton wrote a will in 1993 when he had one daughter. He never updated it, and he since had four additional children. There are also two more daughters alleged to be his although this has not been proven.
Singleton’s mother made a probate filing, and under California law, all five of his acknowledged children will get a portion of the estate, which has an estimated worth of $3.8 million. The probate process is a public one. If Singleton had created a trust, what happened to his estate would be private. There was dissension in the family immediately after Singleton’s stroke when it was unclear whether he would survive, and one of his daughters initially opposed his mother’s request to be appointed executor. She has since dropped the challenge, but this does not mean there will not be additional challenges ahead.
Among the questions ahead are whether the two alleged daughters will receive any portion of his estate and whether his children will object to his mother’s management of his intellectual property. These are all issues that could have been resolved with an updated estate plan, including a trust.
Not everyone needs a trust, but for people who have more complex estates, trusts can be very useful. They are not just for wealthy individuals. For example, if one heir is irresponsible with money, a trust can be set up that only distributes money at certain times or at the discretion of a trustee. A special needs trust can provide for a relative who has special needs without jeopardizing that person’s access to government assistance.