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With not much in Mickey Rooney's estate, fight possible over his remains

Story highlights

  • Rooney's lawyer doubts a deal can be reached out of court on where he'll be buried
  • Rooney's wife is the only person with authority to claim his body, her lawyer says
  • A hearing is set for Friday to decide who controls remains
  • Rooney left his estate to stepson Mark Rooney

Actor Mickey Rooney did not want to be buried in a cemetery plot he bought years ago, before splitting with his wife, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Rooney, who died of natural causes at age 93 on Sunday, also did not want his stepson Chris Aber to attend his funeral, attorney Michael Augustine said.

Rooney's wishes are the basis for a looming court fight over who controls the legendary actor's remains and makes funeral and burial decisions, Augustine said.

While Rooney disinherited his children, his wife and all but one of her children in a will he signed just weeks before his death, court papers suggest there is not much in his estate to fight over. His personal property is valued at just $18,000 despite an unmatched 90-year film career.

Augustine, who served as Rooney's conservator, said in a court filing that he believed Rooney's estranged wife, Jan Rooney, and her son, Christopher Aber, would attempt to remove Rooney's body from Forest Lawn Memorial Park's mortuary.

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A Los Angeles judge signed a handwritten order Tuesday preventing anyone from removing Rooney's remains until he holds a hearing on Friday. Augustine, who is named as estate executor in the will, is asking for that authority.

Attorney Yevgeny Belous, who works with lawyer Mitchell Karasov to represent Jan Rooney, said she is the only person with authority to make the decisions.

Lawyers for both sides are "working toward the mutual goal of honoring Mickey," perhaps with an agreement on funeral and burial arrangements, before Friday's hearing, Belous said. "We want Mickey to have a proper ceremony," he said. "We don't want to drag this into a fight."

Rooney already purchased burial plots in a cemetery in the Westlake Village area of Los Angeles County. In fact, Rooney's mother was moved there years ago so the family would be together, Belous said.

Augustine said Rooney told him shortly before his death that he no longer wanted to be buried in the plot he purchased 15 years earlier. "Substantial intervening events" in the years since changed his wishes, but Rooney's lack of cash prevented him from purchasing a new burial plot, he said.

Rooney expressed a desire to be interred at either a veteran's cemetery or a Hollywood cemetery with other stars. Hollywood Forever, the final resting place for Rudolph Valentino, Cecil B. DeMille and a long list of long gone show biz A-listers, is one possibility, Augustine said.

Augustine said he doubts a deal can be made before the judge imposes a decision, since he is demanding that Aber be banned from the funeral because of Mickey Rooney's severe dislike for the stepson who previously managed him.

Rooney won a $2.8 million judgment against Aber in a lawsuit that included accusations of elder abuse. Aber has yet to pay the judgment, Augustine said.

Jan Rooney signed an agreement waiving all claims to her husband's estate after the couple separated in June 2012 after 34 years of marriage, according to a court filing. She will benefit from Rooney's Social Security and other pensions totaling $8,400 a month, Augustine said.

While Rooney was the highest paid actor in Hollywood 70 years ago, his personal property totaled just $18,000, according to documents accompanying his will.

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The will signed by Rooney on March 11, 2014, left the entire estate to stepson Mark Rooney, one of Jan Rooney's sons, who was the actor's caretaker the last two years of his life.

Rooney "intentionally omitted" and disinherited his eight surviving biological children and two other stepchildren from his last marriage, the will said.

Rooney had no negative feelings toward his surviving children, but they were all financially better off than he was, Augustine said. He believed what little he had to leave should go to Mark Rooney and his wife, because they had been taking good care of him in the final two years, Augustine said.

None of the others "ever changed one of Mickey's Depends," Augustine said.

A probate hearing is scheduled for May 12 to start the process of probating the actor's will.