The mother of late director John Singleton, Sheila Ward-Johnson, has been engaged in an ongoing dispute with his ex-partner and daughter over the value of his estate since his death in April 2019.
During the first week of December 2023, the Los Angeles Superior Court resolved the conflict, determining who should be in control of his $6 million estate, RadarOnline reports.
Years of Court Battles
Over the past four years, Ward-Johnson has served as the administrator of the estate, ensuring that John Singleton’s seven children — Justice, Selenesol, Hadar, Massai, Cleopatra, Isis, and Seven — were provided for equitably.
The “Poetic Justice” filmmaker died on April 28, 2019, at the age of 51. He was removed from life support at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, following 11 days of intensive care, prompted by a stroke.
Part of the issues swirling around the estate, which at one time was rumored to be around $35 million, was that his will had not been updated since 1993 and he did not have a trust, according to Forbes.
In her role, Ward-Johnson submitted a final report on the estate to the court in July 2023, which included its estimated value. According to her team’s submission, the assets, to be distributed among his heirs, were estimated at $6.8 million.
The Estate Value
At the core of his estate is the 70 percent interest in a production company called Crunk Pictures and his New Deal Productions, which most of his works came through.
In addition to the many movies and television productions that he produced, wrote or directed, Singleton’s assets, as revealed by Ward, included boxes of comic books, a substantial collection of movie memorabilia, a Los Angeles residence, a 1999 Lexus, a 2003 Mercedes-Benz and a 2012 sailboat.
Notably, he owned a valuable comic book art collection that included a piece featuring Marvel’s Wolverine valued at $15,000 and another showcasing Marvel characters Peter Parker and Mary Jane, valued at $10,000. Another work of art he has is a painting of the late rapper Tupac that was worth $75,000.
Other assets included a retirement account holding $1.1 million and $31,000 in the bank.
Objections to Ward-Johnson’s Administration
One of his daughters, Cleopatra, along with her mother Vestria Barlow, contested this estimation, focusing on the earnings he received from his filmed projects. There had been some tension between Barlow and Ward-Johnson since she’d listed her child with Singleton as an “alleged daughter” in the initial paperwork.
Barlow filed a $15 million federal lawsuit against Ward-Johnson and various studios, alleging that the estate had been undervalued and that she and her daughter are entitled to seven to 10 percent of all residuals owed to Singleton for “Poetic Justice,” “Higher Learning,” “Woo,” “Rosewood,” “Shaft,” “Baby Boy,” “Hustle & Flow,” “Black Snake Moan,” his most recent hit television show “Snowfall” and many others.
She accused Singleton’s mother in terms of “knowingly and intentionally failure and refusal to pay past and ongoing royalties, residuals, and compensation for the use of the plaintiff’s intellectual property in films, television programs, videos, and other streaming services.”
According to Barlow, who says she has worked with the deceased director since 1998, the courts should investigate the estate value and its distribution.
This was not the first legal action filed by Barlow on behalf of her daughter. After his death, she initiated a claim seeking a $1 million payout, referencing an earlier court mandate that required Singleton to uphold a $1 million life insurance policy with her designated as the beneficiary.
A federal judge threw out her claim because it was not filed in the proper court and was “untimely filed.”
The judge further gave the mother the final approval over the report, which will allow her to distribute the estate to Singleton’s beneficiaries. Each child should receive a little under $1 million apiece and will be entitled to collect residuals from Singleton’s various projects as money comes in the future.