Sherman Hemsley was a popular actor, known for playing George Jefferson in “All in the Family” and the “The Jeffersons.” He was never married and had no children. He died in El Paso in 2012 after a battle with lung cancer.
About six weeks before he died, Hemsley executed a will leaving his estate to his close friend and business manager, Flora Bernal. Hemsley’s half brother and cousin challenged the will, claiming that Hemlsey lacked testamentary capacity or was unduly influenced or did not sign the will. After a bench trial in El Paso Probate Court No. 1, the judge admitted the will to probate.
The El Paso Court of Appeals affirmed the probate judge’s decision. The court appeals noted that an attorney was involed in the drafting and preparation of the will and reviewed the terms of the will with Hemsley. The attorney testified regarding Hemsley’s capacity. Furthermore, the witnesses and a nurse provided testimony supporting his capacity.
I suspect it was not helpful to the contestants that they essentially had no relationship with Hemsley, whereas Bernal had apparently been his close friend and manager for many years. In that context, the disposition in the will would not be considered particularly unusual.