During the late 1970’s through mid 1980’s, Gary Coleman became a promising young star on the television sitcom Different Strokes. His character’s catchphrase “What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” made numerous people laugh during the shows 8 year run. Sadly after his passing and subsequent cremation, his relatives will not be able to hold a funeral until a judge in Utah decided who will permanently control his estate.
There are records that indicate Coleman created a will in 1999 and another in 2005. However, a handwritten amendment was added to the 2005 will later on, in 2007. The significant difference between the 2005 will and the 2007 amendment is that the 2005 will leaves his entire estate to ex-girlfriend and former business associate Anna Grey while the 2007 amendment leaves the entire estate to his ex-wife Shannon Price.
Price and Grey are both claiming in court they should be entitled to the entire estate but have significant legal obstacles to overcome. Price’s strongest argument is that Utah is one of the states that recognize holographic (handwritten) wills, although they must be entirely written in the handwriting of the person, signed and dated. However, Grey’s best argument is that the 2007 amendment was revoked because it was made while Price and Coleman were married. Since they divorced there is a presumption that the amendment was automatically revoked and struck from the will. Price is trying to rebut this presumption by claiming she and Coleman were living in a common law marriage at the time of his death.
In Florida, holographic wills and amendments are disfavored and held unenforceable because of the potential for coercion or duress. Most of these issues could have been avoided with a properly prepared estate plan. For information on avoiding estate planning consequences contact an experienced Florida Estate Planning Lawyer for any questions or concerns you may have with your Florida Will.