Estate of actor Sherman Hemsley subjected to will contest

He became famous on camera playing a blustering, upwardly mobile character that helped break ground for African-Americans on television. Actor Sherman Hemsley, who died in July at age 74, was recently the subject of a fond memorial at the Emmy Awards.

Now his estate is the focus of a will contest, however.

The star of the “The Jeffersons,” the long-running series in the 1970s and 1980s, left an estate worth about $50,000, according to reports. A will he apparently signed in El Paso, Texas, about six weeks before his death of lung cancer left the estate to his manager of 20 years.

But a man who lives in Philadelphia, the actor’s hometown, claims to be Hemsley’s brother and is contesting the validity of the will. He says the document might not have come from Hemsley.

A Texas judge ordered the man to take a DNA test.

The sole beneficiary of the will is a woman who said she was a friend and his manager for more than 20 years. She said she lived together with Hemsley and his friend, 76.

She said that in all those years, the actor never mentioned relatives.

“Some people come out of the woodwork — they think Sherman, they think money,” she told Associated Press.

Hemsley played George Jefferson, a character bristling with bravado and biases that masked his essentially good heart. He played the character first on “All in the Family” and later on “The Jeffersons” spin-off.

The comedy ran for a decade on CBS, beginning in 1975 and was notable for its portrayal of the members of a financially successful African-American family.

Will contests can involve complicated legal issues best navigated with an experienced Lee County, Florida, estate planning and execution attorney.

Source: USA Today, “DNA test ordered in Sherman Hemsley estate dispute,” Olivia Barker, Sept. 26, 2012

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