When the death of a loved one occurs and there are no clear instructions left for estate administration or burial, loved ones can be left unsure of what the deceased’s wishes were. Sometimes, even when a will is in place before the death, the family of the deceased can contest it. This can leave the estate in legal limbo while a judge decides the case. Estate administration can be quite tricky under certain circumstances.

Michigan readers may be interested in a recently decided estate case that had until now left the deceased’s final wishes in question. Actor Sherman Hemsley died in late July, leaving a will instructing that his longtime friend administer his estate and oversee his burial wishes. Hemsley’s half-brother contested the will, and he requested permission to bury the actor in Pennsylvania. Because of this, Hemsley’s body is still being held at an El Paso funeral home.

The actor’s estate, which court documents show is worth at least $50,000, will be controlled by his friend, as he outlined in his will. The attorney who prepared the document testified in court that the actor was of sound mind when signing it, and a nurse who had cared for the actor in a nursing home testified that he was alert and oriented. A U.S. Marshal in Texas, where the case was heard, testified that the woman named in the will was the actor’s only family, according to a conversation the two had before his death.

Establishing that the deceased was of sound mind and knew what he was doing when making the will is an important step in having the document upheld. This case shows how important it is to have clear documentation and witnesses to ensure that a will is honored.

Source: Fox News, “Judge: Will of ‘Jeffersons’ star Sherman Hemsley is valid, actor can be buried,” Nov. 9, 2012

FindLaw Network