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OTRC: Sherman Hemsley's burial delayed by will dispute

Sherman Hemsley appears in a promotional photo from the 1970s series 'The Jeffersons.' (CBS / Landov)

Sherman Hemsley, who died of cancer last month, has not been buried due to a dispute over his will.

Hemsley, an actor best known for playing George Jefferson on the hit sitcom "The Jeffersons," was pronounced dead at the age of 74 by the El Paso Sheriff's Department on Tuesday, July 24. According to the Associated Press, his embalmed body will be refrigerated at an El Paso funeral home until local courts rule on the validity of his will.

In the will, which was signed six weeks before his death, Hemsley named "beloved partner" Flora Enchinton, 56, as the sole beneficiary of his estate, which is estimated to be worth over $50,000.

The will was contested by Richard Thornton of Philadelphia, who claims to be Hemsley's brother and says that the will might not have been made by the actor, who had no wife or children.

Enchinton told the Associated Press that she has been Hemsley's friend and manager for over 20 years, during which time she lived with the actor and his friend Kenny Johnston, 76.

Enchinton said that Hemsley never mentioned any relatives and she told the wire service, "Some people come out of the woodwork - they think Sherman, they think money... But the fact is that I did not know Sherman when he was in the limelight. I met them when they [Hemsley and Johnston] came running from Los Angeles with not one penny, when there was nothing but struggle."

There is no court date set for the hearing and Thornton's lawyer had no immediate response regarding the case. Enchinton said that she hopes the issues will be cleared in court.

On August 8, the El Paso County medical examiner's office reported that Hemsley's death was caused by a cancerous tumor obstructing a large vein. TMZ previously reported that the actor died from lung cancer.

Hemsley, who is originally from Philadelphia, made his on-screen debut in "All In The Family" in 1973. The show ended its run in 1978, but he played his character, the abrasive George Jefferson, in a spin-off - "The Jeffersons," which aired until 1985. Isabel Sanford, who played his on-screen wife Louise "Weezy" Jefferson, died in 2004 at age 86.

Hemsley also had roles in shows such as "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, "Amen," "Family Matters" and "Sister, Sister." He also provided the voice of mean boss B.P. Richfield in the 1990s life-size puppet sitcom "The Dinosaurs." The actor's last on-screen role was in a 2011 episode of the comedy series "House of Payne."

Tyler Perry paid homage to the Hemsley shortly after his death in a tribute video posted on his official twitter page. It was a montage of Hemsley in "House of Payne." Watch the video below.

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