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Outdated will causes problems for John Singleton estate

Georgia residents should avoid making the mistake of procrastinating on creating or updating an estate plan. The case of film director John Singleton offers a useful example of why this is the case. Singleton died suddenly in April from a stroke at the age of 51. The will he left behind was prepared in 1993.

Singleton created the will when he had one child. After that, he had four more children. There are also two daughters who are alleged to be his although it is not known whether this is true or not. Conflict in the family began before he died. The family argued about who should be his conservator and his chances of recovering from the stroke.

Singleton's mother filed the will in probate court and said he had about $3.8 million in assets. There is some speculation that Singleton might have placed additional assets in a trust for his children, but this is unlikely. Usually, if a person creates a trust, the will contains a "pour-over provision". This allows for any assets not placed in the trust to be moved into the trust when the person dies. The probate process will be public instead of offering the privacy that a trust would. California law will allow his other children to inherit assets as well.

Without an estate plan, the state will determine what happens to a decedent's assets, and it may not match the decedent's wishes. Outdated estate plans cause problems as well, and it is important to remember that there can be more to an estate plan than a will or a trust. For example, some assets are passed using beneficiary designations. Sometimes people forget to update these documents after a divorce or other family changes, and a beneficiary designation can override provisions in wills.

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