On July 24th, Sherman Hemsley passed away from what the coroner describes as lung cancer. But as of today, the late Jeffersons star is still not buried and his body remains refrigerated at the Eastside location of the San Jose Funeral Home in El Paso, Texas.
His will continues to be contested, with everything from the naming of beneficiaries to the cause of death up for dispute.
TheGrio previously reported on the estate battle between Flora Enchinton, 56, who was described as a “beloved partner” of Hemsley’s and a man that claims to be the deceased actor’s estranged brother.
Richard Thornton of Philadelphia claims to be Hemsley’s half brother. He argues that the will may not have been written by the late actor and suggests that it may be a forgery.
Hemsley’s $50,000 estate lists Enchinton, his manager for over 20 years and live-in friend, as his sole beneficiary.
Hemsley always said in interviews that he was an only child and Enchinton claimed that he never mentioned any family members.
In August, she told the Associated Press, “Some people come out of the woodwork — they think Sherman, they think money… But the fact is, that I did not know Sherman when he was in the limelight. I met them when they [Hemsley and Johnston] came running from Los Angeles with not one penny, when there was nothing but struggle.“
In September, a judge ordered DNA testing to determine whether or not Thornton is in fact Hemsley’s biological brother, the results of that test have not been reported.
There is also a third person who has come forward to contest Hemsley’s will. Reverend Michael George Wells, a minister at Arch Street United Methodist Church – who claims to be a cousin on Hemsley’s mother’s side.
Wells told the El Paso Times, “There is only one person in the world who I believe Sherman would call a sister, and that is my mother, we are family, and we are not looking for money. But if we are entitled to something, we don’t want anyone else to have it.”
The minister added that he believes Enchinton was not close to Sherman and that Thornton is not related to him. Wells hopes to join in the legal fight but allegedly does not have the $10,000 for legal fees to do so.
“In the beginning they said he died of natural causes. Then it came out he had cancer, there needs to be an investigation. We have no knowledge of the doctors, hospitals, no one talked to us about his cancer. Everything we found out was from the news… Flora knows my family, this is what perplexes me. I called there on June 1, and why did she not tell me Sherman was dying of cancer?”
The Methodist minister also questions the will itself and believes the estate to be worth “beyond” the $50,000 Enchinton claims it to be.
“The will and probate were found seven days after he died. No one reached out to me, my mother, my family or any (person with a) relationship to Sherman.”
Civil litigator Anahita Sedaghatfar told Fox that unfortunately, she is not surprised that this is occurring.
“It is very sad that after decades in show business, a stellar career by all accounts, this debacle may very well be Sherman’s legacy. Only after his death, this man pops up, claiming to be Sherman’s half brother, and for what? A claim to a $50,000 estate,” she said. “If he is, then he will have the legal right to challenge the validity of Sherman’s will and possibly inherit some or all of the estate. However, it looks like it will be an uphill battle because even if he is proven to be related to Sherman, he will still need to provide a legal basis to challenge the will (which leaves everything to Sherman’s former manager) such as duress, lack of capacity or fraud.
“If it turns out that this man is not related to Sherman and was perpetrating a fraud upon the court, which won’t be shocking, then he will be held legally accountable for his actions and Flora Enchinton may have legal claims against him.”