Hemsley, best known for his 11 seasons on the CBS sitcom "The Jeffersons," left behind an estate of approximately $50,000. He was not married and had no children. According to Fox News, Hemsley left his estate to Flora Enchinton Bernal, his "self-proclaimed business partner and live-in best friend." There is a will attesting to this. However, a man named Richard Thornton came forward after Hemsley's death, claiming to be his brother. Thornton filed a civil lawsuit calling into question the will.
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A trial was supposedly set for September, but that got delayed until October in order for Thornton to get a DNA test. In addition, a woman and her son, the Rev. Michael George Wells, are insisting that the woman was a relative to Hemsley. "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,” Wells told the El Paso Times.
The money is one thing; the burial is something else. Even there, folks don't seem able to agree. Bernal has told authorities that Hemsley wanted to be buried in El Paso, Texas, where he'd lived for several decades. Others believe Hemsley should be buried in Pennsylvania, near his family.
A reporter from KTSM spoke to Bernal's attorney about the process. "It's been very difficult," Neill said. "I think she feels very responsible for Mr. Hemsley. She feels a deep desire to give him his final resting place and give him the dignity that comes with that. Obviously we've been delayed in order to get that resolution here, so I think it's been a combination of very frustrating and just... very emotional and difficult for her."
The judge is expected to make a final ruling on October 31.
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- Sherman Hemsley
- Richard Thornton