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Celebrity deaths show the importance of estate planning

The have been many prominent celebrities who have died without a clear estate plan. For example, the estates of Prince and Aretha Franklin, who died in 2016 and 2018, respectively, are still tied up in legal battles. Georgia residents may want to take note and learn from the estate planning woes of these celebrities.

In the case of filmmaker John Singleton, there was a will, but it had not been updated since 1993. Singleton had one child at the time and subsequently had six more. Since the entire estate is left to his oldest daughter in the will, the other children are contesting it. Updating the will after the birth of each child could have prevented the court battle.

Singleton's mother is the executor of the estate. According to her probate filing, his assets are $3.8 million. However, it was estimated that his estate was worth $35 million, so it's unclear what happened to the other $31 million. Reportedly, movie rights, royalties and some other assets were placed in trusts. This would mean those assets would pass without going through the public probate process. In contrast, Michael Jackson set up his estate so that it was clear his assets were supposed to pass to all of his children.

Wills and trusts are not the only documents that should be updated regularly. People should also review any beneficiary designations to make sure they are both up to date and consistent with the will or trust. Usually, assets such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies pass with a beneficiary designation. People may also want to consider estate planning documents dealing with becoming incapacitated. A living will shares a person's desires for end-of-life care. With medical and financial powers of attorney, someone can be appointed to make health care and financial decisions for an incapacitated individual. An attorney can help with the entire estate planning process.

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