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The dangers of failing to update an estate plan

Texas residents should not assume that once they have created an estate plan, they do not have to think about it any longer. It can be tempting to procrastinate on creating it in the first place, and people may think they are too young to worry about revising it. However, an illness or accident can strike at any age. This was the case for director John Singleton, who died unexpectedly in April at the age of 51 and whose will had not been updated since he prepared it in 1993.

Singleton had one daughter when he created the will. When his mother filed his will in probate court, she listed four other children plus two "alleged" children. It is unclear whether the other two are Singleton's daughters or not. California law allows children to inherit equally from a parent if they are born after the creation of a will, but this may not apply to the two other children.

Singleton's family has been in conflict since he had the stroke in April that led to his death. They disagreed about whether he would recover, who should be conservator and what caused his death. One daughter initially objected to the mother's efforts to become executor. There may be further hurdles ahead, including over what becomes of Singleton's intellectual property.

These types of issues may lead to probate litigation. This may happen if one or more individuals believes that the decedent was unduly influenced, if an estate plan is unclear, or if finances appear to have been mishandled. Estate administration and probate can be complex, and an attorney may be able assist with these and other issues. Creating an estate plan that is updated regularly and talking to family members about its contents can help reduce the likelihood of these challenges.

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