The death of legendary director, John Singleton, yesterday at the young age of 51 was a blow to so many of us for whom his work was a rite of passage. I know I can remember exactly where and when I first saw ‘Boyz N The Hood’. I’m sure I’m not alone. John showed brilliance in his field at a very young age, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Director at the age of 24. He translated his experience and vision of the world of South Central Los Angeles onto film and small screen, communicating in detail the interplay of loyalty, violence, oppression, and hope in the neighborhood in which he was raised. But unfortunately what he wasn’t able to communicate were his wishes for his medical care, for his estate, and for his seven children.
It has become almost unsurprising now when a celebrity passes without an estate plan. We have the recent examples of Prince and Aretha Franklin as references. (As a counterpoint there were Robin Williams, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Hussle, Biggie, and Tupac, who all had their estate plans in order. John was a young man without any serious chronic drug or health problems (that we knew about). Why would he need an estate plan at the age of 51?
But an estate plan would have served John and his family in myriad ways. Before his death, John suffered a stroke and was unresponsive in the hospital. His mother, who functioned as his business manager, immediately filed a petition in court to be appointed as temporary conservator of John’s estate. His daughter objected to her grandmother’s petition. This level of adversity could have been avoided if he had completed an estate plan.
A complete estate plan takes care of your estate not just when you pass away but also if you are incapacitated. By placing all his assets in a trust and assigning trusted, responsible friends or family members as Successor Trustees, John could have avoided the need for any court involvement in his affairs in the event of medical emergencies like he ultimately suffered. He could also have communicated his wishes for treatment through an Advanced Health Care Directive.
With John’s passing with presumably no estate plan in place, his seven children will receive his estate. With an estate estimated to be worth millions, there is likely to be even more adversity during the probate process. We mourn his loss and his lack of planning.
So no matter which neighborhood you’re from, communicate your wishes for those you leave behind. Create an estate plan with a qualified and trusted attorney so that your legacy can be about the phenomenal contributions you made to the world during your lifetime, not court hearings and adversity.