TV’s “The Jeffersons” actor Sherman Hemsley Estate Dispute Settled

The Probate Judge of El Paso County, Texas has ordered a DNA test in the Estate of actor Sherman Hemsley after a before unknown relative stepped forward .  You may remember Mr. Hemsley from his role as George Jefferson in the TV shows “The Jeffersons”.

Hemsley’s Will named his manager Flora Enchinton Bernal as his sole beneficiary and Executor of the estate.  However, a dispute arose when a Philadelphia man, claiming to be Hemsley’s half-brother, filed in the Probate Court claiming to be the brother of the deceased actor.  Due to the dispute, Judge Patricia Chew ordered DNA testing to confirm the allegations.  The Order delayed the trial in the estate and Hemsley’s body had to kept frozen in an El Paso funeral home.  Because of this, the funeral was delayed for four months.  The issue has now been settled, as Chew ruled the original Will to be valid.  Hemsley relocated to El Paso later in his life, and has resided in the State of Texas for the last 20 years.

The litigators at Ford + Mathiason LLP specialize in Estate, Trust and Guardianship litigation.  If you are considering contesting a Will or are currently engaged in estate ligation, contact Ford + Mathiason LLP for assistance.

Increased Demand for Estate Planning

Ford + Mathiason LLP has experienced an increased demand for estate planning advice given the current estate and gift tax exemption set to expire on December 31, 2012.  The uncertainty has driven many to consider giving large tax-motivated gifts in order to take advantage of the current $5 million exemption.

If the current estate and gift tax rates expire at the end of the year, the exemption amount will decrease from $5 million to $1 million –  the 2001 exemption amount.  Not only will the exemption will decrease substantially, but the estate and gift tax maximum rate will increase from the current rate of 35% to 55%.  This changes are substantial and will reduce the amount of flexibility afforded individuals.

When implemented correctly, individuals can give up to their current tax exemption amount of $5 million to their children or other loved ones without triggering a gift tax.  This benefits individuals whose estates are larger than $1 million exemption amount of 2001, set to return in 2013.

If you have questions or concerns about your estate plan and would like to consult with an experienced attorney, please contact Ford + Mathiason LLP today.

The FAQ’s of Estate Planning #7: Can Any Attorney Draft My Estate Planning?

A frequent question that we are asked by clients wanting to have their estate planning documents prepared is, “Can Any Attorney Draft My Estate Planning?”

The Answer:  Texas law allows any licensed lawyer to draft a Will.  However, it is most prudent to look for an attorney who specializes in this area.  Because any problems in the drafting of the Will may not be discovered until after your death, you want to make sure that you receive competent advice and that your Will is well-drafted from the outset.

The FAQ’s of Estate Planning #6: What is a Living Will?

Many clients do not understand the difference between a Will and a Living Will.  The Living Will has a very different purpose than a traditional Will:

A Living Will is sometimes referred to as a  Directive to Physicians.  It allows you to direct your doctors that you do not want to be placed on life sustaining support if you are in a terminal condition or an irreversible condition.  This differs from a medical power of attorney because it is your direction to your doctor whereas the medical power of attorney is your appointment of a friend or family member to make the decisions for you.