One of the disadvantages of being a celebrity is that you have no privacy. One of the disadvantages to being a celebrity living in California is that court records are much easier to come by. Divorces are not sealed, for example, except in rare situations. Reporters in California seem to have become adept at searching public records, because someone uncovered a copy of Mickey Rooney’s will very soon after it was filed. Wills are always a matter of public record, but not everyone knows that — or takes advantage of it.
When the press got hold of Rooney’s will, the crowd, as they say, went wild. Not only did he leave his estranged wife Jan out of it, but he also left his eight biological children and one stepson out. The stepson’s absence made sense — Rooney had sued him for financial and verbal abuse — but the decision to leave his biological children out was surprising. That is, until the papers revealed the value of Rooney’s estate: $18,000.
Nevertheless, seven of his eight children are contesting the will. Like Jan, they claim that their father was pressured and manipulated into signing the March 2014 will. They accuse Rooney’s conservator– recently approved as executor of the actor’s estate — and stepson Mark Aber of taking advantage of the elderly actor.
Jan and the children say that the estate should be valued at much more than $18,000. Commentators have pointed out that Rooney was a contract player during the peak of his career, so he would not have made royalties on any of those works for hire. However, his contract player days came to an end in the 1950s.
For the last 50 years or so Rooney had been working fairly steadily and earning fairly sizeable sums: for the new entry in the “Night at the Museum” series, for example, he reportedly earned $300,000. His family says, too, that Rooney had held onto collectibles from his career, even an Oscar, that should be worth more than a few thousand dollars.
Whatever happens, we can say with near certainty that the press will share any new developments in the cases.
People, “Mickey Rooney’s Children Challenge His Will in Court,” Champ Clark, May 13, 2014
Radar Online, “Mickey Rooney’s Wife Claims She CAN’T Be Cut From His Will — She Owns Half Of It!,” May 15, 2014