Another Celebrity Will Contested: Lessons for All

Contested Will 1

One could only imagine what George Jefferson — the wise-cracking character who was “movin’ on up” on the 1970′s TV hit, The Jeffersons — would have said about this predicament.  The body of actor Sherman Hemsley, who played George Jefferson, has been kept on ice for the last 3 1/2 months.  His remains have been refrigerated since he passed away from lung cancer on July 24, 2012, at the age of 74.

Will contests can yield some strange stories. Take for example the case of the late Sherman Hemsley and the three and a half months his remains rested on ice before he was finally put to rest. A recap of that story can be found at Forbes in, “Court Ruling Finally Allows Body of Late Jefferson Star To ‘Move On Up’.

Hemsley’s story is a troubling one, perhaps even more so because his estate was valued at only around $50,000. Sherman Hemsley, who played George Jefferson on the hit TV comedy “The Jeffersons,” didn’t have any real family, but he did have a close friend and business manager in Flora Enchiton whom he named in the will he drafted a mere six weeks before his passing. When a long-lost half-brother showed up to dispute the validity of Hemsley’s will and claim his right to direct the burial, the ensuing fight became both ugly and very public. In the end, Hemsley’s will prevailed, but not without a long fight.  

Teaching points:

  1. Even estates of relatively small value can bring out the worst in your relatives.
  2. Proper estate planning can help ensure your wishes are carried out after your passing, even if some would choose to violate them.
  3. Don’t procrastinate. The fact that Hemsley’s will was written a mere six weeks before his death did complicate matters. Had the will been signed long ago, before Hemsley was sick, it’s unlikely that the case would have taken so long to resolve.

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Reference: Forbes (November 12, 2012) “Court Ruling Finally Allows Body of Late Jefferson Star To ‘Move On Up’