Proper Estate Planning Means Family Harmony in Williamsburg, Virginia


The body of actor Sherman Hemsley, who played George Jefferson, has been kept on ice for the last 3 1/2 months.  His remains have been refrigerated since he passed away from lung cancer on July 24, 2012, at the age of 74.

Why? It’s all because a man claiming to be his half-brother challenged the validity of Hemsley’s will in court.

Will disputes can be very messy, and oftentimes can delay important wishes laid out by the deceased. Take for example the case of the late Sherman Hemsley, as reported in a recent Forbes article titled “Court Ruling Finally Allows Body of Late Jefferson Star To ‘Move On Up’.” Hemsley’s remains rested on ice for three and a half months before he was finally put to rest.

Hemsley’s story is a troubling one, perhaps even more so because his estate was valued at only around $50,000. Sherman Hemsley, who played George Jefferson on the hit TV comedy “The Jeffersons,” didn’t have any real family, but he did have a close friend and business manager in Flora Enchiton whom he named in the will he drafted a mere six weeks before his passing. When a long-lost half-brother showed up to dispute the validity of Hemsley’s will and claim his right to direct the burial, the ensuing fight became both ugly and very public. In the end, Hemsley’s will prevailed, but not without a long fight.  

Teaching points:

  1. Even estates of relatively small value can bring out the worst in your relatives.
  2. Proper estate planning can help ensure your wishes are carried out after your passing, even if some would choose to violate them.
  3. Don’t procrastinate. The fact that Hemsley’s will was written a mere six weeks before his death did complicate matters. Had the will been signed long ago, before Hemsley was sick, it’s unlikely that the case would have taken so long to resolve.

This is another tough lesson on the importance of timely estate planning. Be sure to contact your estate attorney on a regular basis to ensure proper plans are made.

You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Williamsburg, Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.

Reference: Forbes (November 12, 2012) “Court Ruling Finally Allows Body of Late Jefferson Star To ‘Move On Up’

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