The matter of the Sherman Hemsley estate has been playing itself out for months, and we have been passing along updates as they have become available.
We are happy to be able to report that we now have closure in this case. The probate court in El Paso, Texas has decided that the last will that was executed by Hemsley leaving everything to his longtime close friend and confidant Flora Enchinton is indeed valid.
The difficulties were brought about by the contentions of a Philadelphia resident named Richard Thornton. Hemsley was originally from Philadelphia though he lived in El Paso for a number of years before his passing. He was reportedly fond of saying that El Paso was his home and Enchinton was his family.
Richard Thornton claimed to be the late actor’s brother. The probate court judge in El Paso ordered DNA testing, and the results indicated that Thornton was in fact Hemsley’s half-brother.
Of course, you are perfectly within your rights to disinherit your half-brother if you choose to do so. Hemsley left behind a last will that was quite clear in its intentions.
It is sad to think of the talented actor’s body sitting in a funeral home in El Paso for months while this dispute was underway. He died back on July 24, and he was finally buried on the day before Thanksgiving.
This is a matter that is instructive on a number of different levels. For one thing, you should mention the potential for someone stepping forward to challenge your wishes with a good estate planning attorney if you have any inkling that this may take place.
For another, there are ways to arrange for asset transfers outside of probate, and this is something else to take into consideration when you are making plans for the future.