Michigan residents may have heard that iconic television star Sherman Hemsley, star of “The Jeffersons” passed away several weeks back. And as is rather common when a celebrity dies, long lost relatives pop up to contest the will and delay probate for whatever reasons. Such is the case with Sherman Hemsley, whose body will be kept on ice until a local probate court can rule on his will, which is being contested by a man who claims to be Hemsley’s brother.

According to reports, Mr. Hemsley signed a will roughly six weeks before he died of lung cancer in late July of this year. In the will he named his “beloved partner,” a 56-year-old woman who lived with Hemsley, as the sole beneficiary of his estate. Court documents estimate his estate to be worth more than $50,000. Currently Mr. Hemsley’s body resides in an El Paso funeral home pending a court ruling in the matter.

The will is being contested by a Philadelphia man who claims to be the star’s brother and said the actor’s will may not have been created by Mr. Hemsley. No other information was provided on exactly why the man thinks the will may not be valid. The woman named as sole beneficiary told a media outlet that she met Mr. Hemsley after he left Los Angeles and the limelight of being a celebrity with his friend and they were both broke and struggling at the time. Over time, the three of them became friends and eventually lived together.

The woman said the entire time she knew Mr. Hemsley as a friend and while acting as his manager for more than 20 years he never once mentioned he had relatives. The attorney listed in court documents for the Philadelphia man did not return any inquiries and no court date has been set for the case to be heard by a probate judge. When a will is contested it can cause a multitude of problems and delays in settling the deceased person’s estate, as evidenced in this case.
Having a last will and testament is important however it is just as important that the will be a solid, legally binding document that works to eliminate any uncertainties in the exact wishes of the deceased. There are a number of estate planning strategies that can be used in declaring your wishes, including specifically naming a party you do not wish to benefit from your estate upon your passing.

Yahoo News, “Will dispute prevents burial of Sherman Hemsley,” Juan Carlos Llorca, Aug. 30, 2012

Our Huntington Woods, Michigan, law firm handles a wide range of estate planning and probate litigation issues. Visit our Macomb County probate representation page to learn more.

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