- Associated Press - Friday, November 9, 2012

EL PASO, TEXAS (AP) - A Texas judge says the will actor Sherman Hemsley signed before he died is valid.

Judge Patricia B. Chew said Friday after testimony ended that there was no evidence Hemsley was under duress when he signed a will that gave longtime friend Flora Enchinton Bernal absolute power over his properties.

Philadelphia resident Richard Thornton says he is Hemsley’s brother and is contesting the will.

Hemsley played George Jefferson on the sitcom “The Jeffersons.” He died of lung cancer July 24. Court documents indicate his estate is worth more than $50,000.

Chew’s ruling came after several witnesses testified that Hemsley was cognizant when he signed the document. An attorney for Thornton questioned the attorney and notary who handled the will.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Attorneys for a man who says he is the brother of deceased actor Sherman Hemsley argued Friday that Hemsley was not of sound mind when he signed his will.

Mark Davis, attorney for Richard Thornton, who claims he is Hemsley’s brother, questioned the attorney and notary who did Hemsley’s will in an El Paso court Friday.

Hemsley, who played George Jefferson on the popular sitcom “The Jeffersons,” died of lung cancer July 24.

Davis asked why Julian Horwitz did not consult with a physician about any medication that may have impaired the actor’s judgment. He also questioned why Horwitz took instructions from Laura Enchinton, Hemsley’s longtime friend and sole beneficiary of the will.

“He said he wanted all of his possessions, whatever they were, to pass to Ms. (Enchinton) Bernal,” Horwitz said Friday. “At no point did I ever suspect he lacked capacity, based on my 50 years of experience as a lawyer.”

Thornton, of Philadelphia, is expected to testify about his relationship with Hemsley during the trial. Hemsley was born in Philadelphia, but lived in El Paso the last 20 years of his life.

Court documents indicate Hemsley’s estate is worth more than $50,000. His refrigerated remains are at an El Paso funeral home.

Robert Almonte, the U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas and a friend of Hemsley’s since 1999, also testified Friday. He said Hemsley told him Enchinton was his only family.

“I asked about family in Philadelphia, about wanting to go back,” Almonte said, recalling one of their conversations. “He said no. He said Flora was his family.”

Others who testified Friday, including the witnesses to the will being signed, said Hemsley had full use of his faculties when he signed the will.

Heinz-Ulrich Landeck, a nurse at the hospital where Hemsley was being treated, said “he was always an oriented person of the time and place and who he was.”

She said Hemsley visited the nursing station once and “talked about his career, he mentioned (Enchinton) was his manager.”

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