A death in the family can bring out many emotions, and when wishes are unclear in an estate plan, some of those emotions can boil over among family members even when determining burial and funeral arrangements. After only five days that famous actor Mickey Rooney had died, his family was in Los Angeles County Superior Court to determine where he would be buried; however, they reached a settlement prior to the hearing.
Mickey Rooney’s estate plan was not your typical estate plan because he had disinherited his nine children, all grandchildren, and his current wife. Also, his net worth was only estimated to be about $18,000, and his estate most likely will not receive any royalties from his 80+ year career because many of the older Hollywood contracts did not provide for royalties. Perhaps his largest asset (if you could call it that) was a judgment against his step son for $2.86 million stemming from an elder abuse lawsuit. Rooney claimed his stepson lived a lavish style while draining all of Rooney’s finances. However, his stepson claims he does not have the money, so the judgment may never be recoverable.
This same stepson and his current estranged wife went to Los Angeles Superior Court to demand that the Court require Mickey Rooney’s body be buried in a family plot next to his estranged wife when she dies. This estranged wife’s other son, who is also the executor of Mickey Rooney’s estate, opposed such a demand. Although they settled the matter, Rooney’s estranged wife is still fighting that the will is invalid claiming it was written with “undue influence” and that Mickey Rooney lacked capacity.
This case is prime example of how estate planning disputes are not just over money, and sometimes can be fought even when there is no money. Particularly in light of the elder abuse claim against one stepson, Mickey Rooney’s estate plan should have addressed such issues as burial.