By Jason Stern
Estate of Sherman Hemsley: Why everyone needs a will.
On July 24, 2012 the famed comedian from the memorable television show, “The Jeffersons” passed away. Unfortunately for those who love and miss him, Sherman Hemsley’s body was only laid to rest on November 21, 2012. Due to a dispute by Sherman Hemsley’s alleged half-brother Thornton over Hemsley’s estate his family was unable to lay his remains to rest. For nearly four months after his death his body laid in the refrigerator of a funeral home while this litigation played out.
However, Sherman Hemsley was smart, he planned ahead by having an attorney drafted and executed will leaving his entire estate to his long time friend Flora Bernal. In his will Sherman Hemsley also granted Bernal the authority to dispose of his remains as his executor. It took less than four months from the date of his death for a surrogate judge to rule that his will was valid and properly executed. Thereafter, the will of Sherman Hemsley was admitted to probate and his body was immediately buried pursuant to his executor’s wishes.
This is a classic case of what happens when you are prepared. Had Sherman Hemsley not had a properly executed will his half brother Thornton could have tied up his estate in litigation for years in an administration proceeding. Even worse, Hemsley’s estranged brother could have also claimed a substantial portion of the Hemsley estate. Fortunately the Hemsley estate was able to avoid financial and emotional calamity through probate.
As New York Estate Attorneys, it is always surprising to hear how terrified people are of the word probate. Probate is the desired result after carefully planning your estate. Any New York Estate Lawyer who is an authority will tell you that every successful estate plan begins with a will, whether it’s a simple will or something more intricate. Some clients are so afraid of the word probate, after attending seminars that disseminate misinformation, they opt for more expensive alternatives such as life estates or elaborate trusts. These alternatives are often accompanied by adverse tax consequences requiring substantial loss of control over the subject property and are just not worth the expenditure. Unless your estate is worth tens of millions of dollars probate is the most desirable option.
If you think these dramas only play out in courtrooms on television you would be wrong. Our probate attorneys deal with such instances every single day in probate court’s throughout New York. If you or a loved one needs to start thinking about their estate call an experienced New York probate attorney at the Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates at (718) 261-2444.