Sherman Hemsley Still on Ice Due to Will Contest

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Sherman_HemsleyAs I'm sure you all know, Sherman Hemsley, beloved actor best known (and Emmy-nominated) for playing George Jefferson for 12 years, passed away in July. As you may or may not know, he is still in a freezer in El Paso more than a month later because somebody has come out of the woodwork claiming to be his long-lost brother, and is not only challenging the will but also has demanded a halt to funeral arrangements.

Please note that I will be refraining here from any jokes about when George Jefferson may finally be "movin' on up." Mainly because I used that one on Twitter already.

Hemsley signed a will in June leaving everything to Flora Enchinton, who says she knew Hemsley for 20 years and lived with him for the past ten. Enchinton says they were also business partners and best friends. Hemsley was single and had no children, so if what she says is true it's at least plausible he would name her in his will. The challenger, a Philadelphia man named Richard Thornton, claims to be Hemsley's brother, but so far there doesn't seem to be any evidence that this is true. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Hemsley was raised by his mother in Philadelphia and didn't meet his father until he was 14. So it's possible that he had a half-brother he didn't know about, but reports say he was always listed in biographical material as an only child.

Even if Thornton is related to Hemsley, that wouldn't mean he's entitled to anything because he's not in the will. His challenge is most likely based on the possibility of undue influence, since the will was signed after Hemsley was diagnosed and not long before his death. Of course, that doesn't prove anything, since lots of people don't make wills until the last minute (if at all).

The worst thing about this, of course, is that George Jefferson is not being allowed to move on up (dammit! sorry) Sherman Hemsley has still not been properly laid to rest because of it. I'm pretty sure this isn't a normal part of a will contest; according to one report, "Thornton is requesting all of Hemsley's possessions as well as his frozen body," emphasis added, and as a result of that creepy request a probate judge has ordered funeral plans to be stayed.

Here's the deal: even if these two were related, it seems really unlikely they were so close that Thornton just feels strongly that Hemsley should be buried in Philadelphia. He had lived in El Paso for decades, and nobody seems to have heard of this semi-brother during that time. If that isn't why he's doing this, then that part of it seems like an especially heinous kind of extortion. A hearing is set for late September, so unless Thornton relents, which he should, burial arrangements will be delayed until sometime after that.

There are lots of reasons why people should have a will done well before it's necessary, and I'm now adding "so you don't end up in a freezer for months" to the end of that list.