Sherman Hemsley's estate battle is getting weirder by the minute. The late "Jeffersons" star's body has been in refrigeration since his July death. Now, The New York Times states that a man purporting to be Hemsley's brother has stepped forward, claiming that he has a right to Sherman Hemsley's estate.
Hemsley played George Jefferson on the shows "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons." He died in late July of lung cancer.
According to The Associated Press, a judge has required Hemsley’s supposed brother, Richard Thornton, to undergo DNA testing to prove that he is in fact who he claims to be.
The legal significance of this has to do with Sherman Hemsley’s will. As it currently stands, the will gives his $50,000 estate to his former manager, Flora Enchinton.
Thornton is saying that the will is a fake and that his “brother” never wrote it. But the issue really comes down to whether or not Thornton is legally allowed to bring this claim.
The legal right to contest a will is known as “standing.” Essentially, only someone with standing to sue can challenge the contents of a will. A person will have standing if they can be a beneficiary of the estate.
Assuming that the will is a fake and that there is no other will, the estate would naturally fall into intestacy, which would mean that the state would be required to distribute the estate in a scheme dictated by law (in this case, Texas law). The normal pattern for intestate distribution gives the estate first to immediate family members (spouses, children) and then to siblings, parents and eventually, family members that are further removed (uncles, aunts, cousins).
So Thornton would stand to gain if the original will were declared invalid.
The trial for Sherman Hemsley’s estate starts at the end of October. His memorial service is being held in Philadelphia on September 29.
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