On September 6, 2012

One of the main reasons people create a will is to specify who should receive their financial assets and other belongings after they die. Among its many other purposes, a will takes the guesswork and emotional battles out of the process of dividing a person’s estate among surviving friends and family members. When you make your own choices about who should receive your assets, you limit the possibility of disputes over who is entitled to them.

Limit, but not eliminate. Sometimes even the most detailed, professionally administered will comes under fire by relatives or friends who believe the recently departed’s true intentions are not being carried out. The ensuing legal battle can be hard on loved ones both emotionally and financially.

An example is the will of late actor Sherman Hemsley, who starred in the long-running sitcom “The Jeffersons.” Six weeks before he died of lung cancer in July, he signed a will naming his close friend and manager as the sole beneficiary of his estate, which has an estimated value of more than $50,000. But a man claiming to be Hemsley’s brother has contested the will, which he says may be fraudulent.

The beneficiary, referred to by Hemsley as a “beloved partner,” says that in the more than 20 years she acted as his manager and lived with him and a mutual friend, Hemsley never mentioned any relatives. She suspects the long-lost brother is less than genuine and may be after the actor’s money. Hemsley’s most memorable character, outspoken businessman George Jefferson, might have been just as skeptical. Until the matter is settled in court — no date has been set yet — the actor’s embalmed body will remain unburied at a Texas funeral home.

Unfortunately, such disputes aren’t limited to the estate plans of actors and other celebrities. Any will can trigger a legal battle, and in the absence of the writer of that will, his or her loved ones need experienced counsel to ensure that the will is handled just as it was intended.

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

· Our firm has proven experience in estate administration and probate litigation. To learn more about our practice, visit our Denver estate planning website.

Categories: Probate Litigation

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