The man who played the proud, strutting, wealthy George Jefferson on The Jeffersons died last July. Sherman Hemsley, whose 1970s comedy show was filmed in Los Angeles, was never buried. A probate court had to decide whether the actor’s will was sound and funeral plans were delayed.
A legal dispute surfaced between Hemsley’s former business manager and an out-of-touch half- brother. Hemsley had just $50,000 in his estate at the time of his July 24 death. According to a will signed by the 74-year-old actor six weeks prior to his death, the estate was to pass to his ex-manager.
Hemsley had no surviving family members, at least until a relative showed up to challenge the will’s validity. A DNA test showed that the man who claimed to be Hemsley’s brother was related. The men had the same father and different mothers, but never communicated.
The half-brother told the court that he wished to bury the actor in Philadelphia, Hemsley’s hometown. The business manager, Hemsley’s close friend, accused the relative of trying to make a last ditch effort to catch in on the George Jefferson fame.
A probate judge agreed that Hemsley was competent when he signed the will. The court was convinced by testimony from the lawyer who helped the actor draft the document, an attending nurse and a friend who said Hemsley had no desire to go back to Philadelphia.
The competence issue was the reason the half-brother could challenge the will. The relative’s biological connection had no bearing on the outcome of the case.
A person may use a will to designate anyone to handle a funeral and burial. Hemsley clearly indicated how he would like his estate handled — a wish probate did not dispute.
The decedent’s wishes were honored – an example of how legal claims can delay the execution of any will. Estate planners recommend signing a will when health conditions are indisputable to avoid asset distribution delays.
Source: forbes.com, “Court Ruling Finally Allows Body of Late Jefferson Star To “Move On Up“,” Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Nov. 12, 2012