Mickey Rooney was a beloved American actor, famous for his roles on television and Broadway, as well as movie roles, including being the voice of Santa Claus. He was also a father and a husband, as well as a man with a gambling problem for much of his later life.
Despite working for much of his adult life, often commanding a premium wage, his finances were not as robust as one would imagine for an actor who receives nearly universal name recognition with several generations of Americans. When he died, Rooney’s will only detailed the dispersal of roughly $18,000 in assets.
The issue with Rooney’s estate
When Rooney passed away in April 2014, he was 93 years old. His wife, Janice Rooney, has since retained the services of an attorney to argue that she is entitled to some of the residual income from the use of Rooney’s name. Her attorney is using community property laws to make the case that Janice Rooney is entitled to some of the income created by the ongoing use of Mickey Rooney’s name , voice, likeness, personality, and image. In a sad turn of events, the person who is currently entitled to those payments, her biological son (and Mickey Rooney’s stepson), is the one denying her the income.
Mark Rooney and his wife, Charlene Rooney, maintain that the will created in 2014 named them as the beneficiaries of all the actor’s assets at the time of his passing. Rooney was in possession of Hollywood memorabilia and his estate continues to receive royalties from his movie career. According to Janice Rooney’s attorney, many of the community property assets from the estate have been used to pay the actor’s tax debts. Janice Rooney, age 77, is now trying to receive a portion of the ongoing income created by the use of Rooney image, as well as acting awards he received during his career.
Probate court and contested estates are typically complicated
There’s a reason that everyone involved with Mickey Rooney’s estate is being represented by an attorney. Probate court and contesting an estate are complex areas of law. Court proceedings for these cases may be drawn out for years, and heirs can often have very emotional responses to the outcome of the proceedings. Large estates being contested in court are often enough to damage or even destroy families . While no one wants to start an issue within one’s family, every heir from an estate should feel like the division of assets was fair, appropriate and in line with the wishes of the deceased.
If you have been named as an heir, or worse, omitted from inclusion in a will or estate, seeking legal help from an experienced probate litigation attorney is your best option. They can help you navigate the probate court process.