Gary Coleman, famed for his role in “Diff’rent Strokes” and his child-like appearance, died in 2010 from a brain hemorrhage. Two years later, the battle over his estate still continues. Coleman’s estate is not a large one, it consists of a house worth over $300,000, intellectual rights to some of his works and his ashes.
Both Coleman’s ex-wife, Shannon Price, and his ex-girlfriend, Anna Gray, have placed claims on the estate. Although Coleman and Price secretly divorced in 2008, their relationship remained on and off, with Price still often living in Coleman’s home. Price was attempting to claim common law marriage because of their continued co-habilitation. However, for common law marriage to apply, the couple not only has to live together for a certain period of time (varies by the state), but they must behave and present themselves as a married couple. Because Price moved in and out of Coleman’s home on multiple occasions and because they did not give a public impression of marriage, the judge ruled that no common law marriage applies in this case.
Anna Gray, the ex-girlfriend, has declared that she is entitled to the estate. She claims that she managed Coleman’s affairs for years and that he had named her as the executor and beneficiary of his estate over 7 years ago, in 2005.
It is tragic to realize that after the costs of probate fees and attorney fees, there may be very little left of the estate these women are fighting for. Also, without a set estate plan, Coleman also made it possible for his estranged parents to attain his estate. Coleman and his parents are not on good terms, in fact he sued them for mismanagement and theft of his funds from his time as a child actor – causing him to later have to file bankruptcy. An estate plan would have made all the difference in this sad situation. Coleman could have dictated his exact wishes, avoiding a very lengthy probate and ensuring his estate was transferred smoothly and without so much public attention.
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