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Actor Sherman Hemsley's Estate Mired in Probate Litigation


Losing a loved one is often hard. It takes an emotional toll, which mulling over their estate only compounds. That is especially true if the recently deceased loved one did not have a will or drafted one under suspicious circumstances. Take, for example, Sherman Hemsley.

New York residents likely remember Hemsley of "The Jeffersons" fame. Readers may not know, however, that Hemsley died over the summer. Since his death, his estate has been mired in probate litigation.

A month before he died, Hemsley signed a will. That will reportedly left Hemsley's estate to his business partner of 20 years. The will also listed the business partner as the will's executor.

Now that will is being challenged on multiple fronts. A man from Philadelphia claiming to be Hemsley's brother challenged its validity in August. Likewise, another man has stepped forward claiming that his mother, who was allegedly like a sister to Hemsley, should decide what happens to Hemsley's body and estate.

As a result of the dispute, Hemsley's body is still not at rest. Instead of burying him, the funeral home entrusted with Hemsley's body has had to keep the body frozen until the legal system can sort out who has the final say on what to do with Hemsley's body.

Hemsley's situation highlights the importance of setting up a proper will. When a person does not do that or, like here, the will is in dispute, it can raise serious legal issues (not to mention emotional ones). Some of the more common legal issues that may arise include unscrupulous disinheritance, ambiguous wills, disappointed heirs, fiduciary misdeeds, property right disputes and tax disputes.

Source: El Paso Times, "El Paso probate court hears dispute over Sherman Hemsley estate," Aaron Bracamontes, Sept. 24, 2012