We have written before on this blog about the unfortunate situation with the body of actor Sherman Hemsley, famous for his role in “The Jeffersons.” As our regular readers know, Hemsley’s body has been in limbo due to a probate dispute, and has been prevented from being buried. Fortunately, the situation was resolved last Friday, when a Texas Court ruled in favor of Flora Enchinton, the woman Hemsley appointed as his sole beneficiary and the executrix of his estate.
Richard Thornton, the man who had claimed to be Hemsley’s half-brother and challenged the validity of his will, had been ordered to take a DNA test to establish his right to challenge Hemsley’s will. His attorney has acknowledged that the tests reveal that Thornton is not related to Hemsley. In making his decision, though, the judge didn’t rely on the tests anyway, since Thornton missed the deadline for submitting the evidence.
Because Hemsley served in the Air Force as a younger man, his body will be buried at Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso.
While it would be nice to think that this is the end of the dispute, it may not be. Although Hemsley’s will has been admitted to probate and Enchinton has already been confirmed as the independent executrix of his estate, Thornton’s attorney has said he plans to challenge the ruling. Sources didn’t indicate what his grounds are, though.
Will disputes like these can be more than a nuisance. In some situation, probate battles end up significantly reducing the value of the estate. For this reason, it behooves those engaging in estate planning to work with an experienced attorney who knows how to structure the estate plan so as to avoid such disputes wherever possible.
Source: Fox News, “Military funeral planned for Sherman Hemsley, months after death,” Hollie McKay, November 14, 2012