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Wills and beneficiaries: Fate of Rooney's body decided

As most Texas readers of this blog are aware, Mickey Rooney passed away earlier this month at the robust age of 93. Not long after his death, it became public knowledge that the Hollywood star's estate held a value of only $18,000. Rather than naming other potential beneficiaries in his estate paperwork, he left this small sum to his stepson, who was serving as his caretaker.

However, relatives later battled over his remains. A lawyer for the Mickey Rooney estate went to court, however, and asked that Forest Lawn Memorial Park be barred from releasing Rooney's remains to his estranged wife, Jan Rooney, from whom he had been separated. The lawyer who drafted Mickey Rooney's will said the actor disinherited his estranged wife. He indicated that she would be permitted to receive his Social Security and pensions, which Mickey Rooney thought would be sufficient to provide for her. The actor also disinherited his nine biological children because they were better off financially than he was.

Further, the actor sued his estranged wife, Jan Rooney (along with her son) in 2011, claiming mistreatment and elder abuse, and they agreed to a $2.86 million settlement. However, that settlement has not and will not ever likely be paid. The estate lawyers said that the estranged wife and son were inappropriately trying to take the actor's remains against his express wishes. Later, the warring factions of the family agreed to bury his remains in a special cemetery for Hollywood stars.

In confronting legal issues pertaining to estates and beneficiaries, Texas families that have been divided may have conflicting ideas about how to handle a decedent's remains. In the case of a well-planned estate, such decisions will be clearly defined in estate paperwork and, therefore, little disagreement among family members is likely. However, in situations that are less clear, families can assert legal arguments in court to try to ensure their loved one's remains are handled in the fashion that their relative would have preferred.

Source: Forbes, "Mickey Rooney's Estate Finds Peace, But Will It Last?", Danielle and Andy Mayoras, April 11, 2014

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