I have blogged in recent months about disputes over celebrity funerals and burials ( Mary Kennedy and Carroll Shelby.) Now yet another celebrity corpse case is being fought.
Actor Sherman Hemsley who played George Jefferson, the wisecracking owner of a dry-cleaning business on “All in the Family” from 1973 to 1975 and then starred in the spin-off series “ The Jeffersons” for 11 seasons, died on July 24, 2012 of lung cancer.
His funeral and burial have still not taken place.
For more than a month, Hemsley’s body has been kept in an El Paso, Texas funeral home refrigerator awaiting a court decision on who has the right to deal with the actor’s remains.
Hemsley signed a will on June 13, 2012, a month after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He named Flora Enchinton, his long-time friend and partner, as his sole executor and beneficiary.
Richard Thornton of Philadelphia has come forward claiming to be the actor’s brother and challenging the will Hemsley signed six weeks before his death. Thornton is asking for custody of the actor’s remains and possessions.
Flora Enchinton whom the actor referred to his will as his “beloved partner” knew Hemsley for 20 years and lived with him during the last 10 years of his life .
“I have never heard of the so called brother named Richard Thornton in the 20 years I’ve known Sherman. This is not what Sherman would have wanted,” Enchinton has stated.
A search I made online with the El Paso,Texas Probate Court office indicates that a hearing in this matter is scheduled for September 24 which is two months after the actor’s death. Hopefully, at that time, the judge will make a ruling that will bring closure to this unfortunate situation. Stay tuned for further updates.
If there is the potential for a dispute over funeral and burial arrangements, it is imperative to have a discussion with your family as to your wishes (including your wishes with regards to organ donations ) and to have an up-to- date will before you depart this world. You may also want to consider making arrangements for a prepaid funeral.