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Will dispute keeps actor’s body on ice, estate in limbo

The body of Sherman Hemsley, the actor who played George Jefferson on the television series All in the Family and The Jeffersons, is currently in limbo as a legal dispute prevents his estate from putting it to rest. Hemsley’s body was recently ordered to be placed in a freezer at a funeral home in San Jose after a man claiming to be his brother contested his will, requesting his possessions and remains.

According to Richard Thornton, the man making the claim, Hemsley’s will was not actually written up by Hemsley. The will under dispute was signed back in June, six months before Hemsley’s death, and reportedly lists Flora Echington of El Paso as executrix of his estate and sole heir to all his holdings.

Hemsley’s estate is estimated to be worth over $50,000. His will reportedly refers to Echington as his “beloved partner.” Echington has stated publicly that she has known Hemsley for 20 years and lived with him for over 10 years in El Paso, and that she never heard him mention anything about Richard Thornton. There is apparently no biographical information indicating that Hemsley had a brother, and he is apparently listed as an only child.

On Monday, the dispute was supposed to be settled, but the trial was postponed after Thornton’s attorney asked for a genetic test to determine whether Hemsley’s DNA matches Thornton’s. The judge granted that request and has reportedly given family members of Hemsley time to submit DNA samples. The test is supposed to be filed by October 15.

We’ll keep our readers updated on further developments in this story.


Source: Courthouse News Service, “Will Dispute Puts Sherman Hemsley on Ice,” August 31, 2012.