You may not have known this, but Sherman Hemsley, the actor who played George Jefferson on “The Jeffersons,” the TV sitcom that aired from 1975 – 1985 and was nominated for eight Golden Globe awards, died in July from lung cancer and, because of intra-family disputes over his will, his body was kept in refrigerated storage for five months.
78-year-old Richard Thornton, the recently verified half-brother of Mr. Hemsley, had contested the validity of Hemsley’s will, claiming that he was not of sound mind when he signed the document. The will stated that Hemsley wanted all of his possessions to pass to his longtime friend and manager, Flora Enchinton Bernal, who was also named as the executor of the estate. But Judge Patricia B. Chew, who presided over the dispute, sided with Ms. Bernal in November and upheld the terms of the contested will.
Even though Thornton’s daughter claimed that her father wasn’t after Hemsley’s estate, estimated to be worth more than $50,000, Thornton does demonstrate how virtually unknown relatives can suddenly appear to contest the will of the recently deceased. While it is true that Thornton was not unknown, he does admit that the two did not call each other or exchange Christmas cards, but that Hemsley did publicly acknowledge him once. This sole acknowledgment occurred at a New Jersey concert in 2011.
Because Judge Chew upheld the terms of Hemsley’s will it seems that the actor will not be moving up to the Eastside, and will instead be buried at a military cemetery in Texas.