The importance of drafting an accurate, comprehensive and valid will has been stressed many times on this blog. But, there is no better way to demonstrate its significance than by looking at tragic examples in the media to demonstrate the possible probate matters that may arise during estate administration.
Fans of the show 'The Jeffersons' may have been shocked when the star, Sherman Hemsley, died a few months ago in Texas. But they may be even more shocked to hear that his body has still not been laid to rest due to legal disputes between his actual and alleged beneficiaries.
Hemsley had maintained that he was a single child and he named his live-in best friend, and former manager, as the sole beneficiary of his reportedly $50,000 estate. The will was signed one month before his death.
Unfortunately, two people, one man and one woman, have come forward claiming they are the actor's siblings. The man has also disputed both the signature on the will and the will itself in a civil lawsuit. The woman's family members claim the actual beneficiary was not close to the actor and that the man alleging to be his brother is lying.
The judge presiding over the suit ordered a DNA test of the man claiming to be his brother.In another twist of events, DNA evidence proved that he was indeed Hemsley's brother, but because the DNA evidence was filed after the court's required date, the evidence has been ordered inadmissible.
There will be a bench trial later this month to determine who is the legal beneficiary of Hemsley's estate, the validity of the will and who will decide on the disposition of his remains.
According to outside legal parties, even though the man has proven himself to be Hemsley's brother, he may still need to find a legal basis, such as coercion or fraud, to challenge the validity of the will to become entitled to a portion of the actor's estate.
Unfortunately, situations such as this can arise when estate planning is not carefully conducted. With the right help, people can avoid situations like this and ensure their desires are carried out after they are gone.
Source: Fox News, "Lawyer: DNA tests reveal Sherman Hemsley had a brother; decision on star's burial delayed, Hollie McKay, Nov. 2, 2012