Our Georgia readers may remember us writing some time ago about the unfortunate case of Sherman Hemsley, the actor who played George Jefferson in the Sitcoms All in the Family and The Jeffersons. Hemsley died of lung cancer last July, but because of a drawn-out estate dispute, he wasn't buried until November.
That isn't the only controversy over the actor's money that's been going on, though. For that last eight years, two men who purchased Hemsley's residual income connected to television reruns, have been fighting over their share of Hemsley's money.
The agreement between the men was forged during a time when the late actor was suffering financial difficulties and needed cash to pay off debts. The two men, Little and Pullman, together purchased Hemsley’s residual income and agreed in 2005 that Pullman would pay $42,500 to Little and each would receive half of the residuals. Later, Little sued Pullman and alleged that the agreement was illegal and sought to have it thrown out.
For the last eight years, the two have been battling one another in court. Though the case isn’t finally resolved, a California appeals court recently ruled that the dispute was not ripe to go to arbitration, giving somewhat of a victory to Pullman. Until the dispute is finally resolved, the late actor’s union, Screen Actors Guild, is holding on to the residual monies.
While the late actor’s estate is not involved in the current litigation, this case is a good reminder of the disputes that can arise following the death of a wealthy individual. Such disputes can be numerous, particularly when estate planning is done poorly. That is why it is so critical for people to work with a professional to do proper estate planning.
Source: Hollywood Reporter, “Fight Over Sherman Hemsley’s Residuals Still Raging After Eight Years,” Eriq Gardner, September 10, 2013.