Mickey Rooney’s children have filed suit in Los Angeles seeking that his will be invalidated, claiming the legendary actor faced “undue influence” when he signed it just weeks before his death.
His biological children are not named as beneficiaries to his estate, now valued at $18,000 but potentially worth considerably more in the future from licensing rights and memorabilia, including an Oscar.
Instead, the beneficiary is Mark Aber, Rooney’s stepson and caretaker in his final days. Rooney died April 6 at age 93.
The May 7 Superior Court filing, by seven of his eight surviving children, alleges that Aber and the estate’s current executor, L.A. attorney Michael Augustine, who was Rooney’s court-appointed conservator in the last years of the actor’s life, took “advantage” of him.
The pair “suggested and dictated the contents of the [will]” and “arranged for the execution of the document” at a time when Rooney was “wholly under the influence” of the two men, the lawsuit alleges.
Augustine and Aber, the suit alleges, “were able to and did control and influence the mind and actions of the Decedent to such an extent that Decedent did whatever Respondent and Aber instructed him to do.”
Richard Petty, who is representing attorney Michael Augustine, says, “We think the contest is utterly without merit and that there is no truth at all to any of the allegations in the children’s contest.”
In a separate suit, Rooney’s estranged wife, Jan Rooney, is also contesting probate of the actor’s will, claiming the will “blatantly misquotes the terms of the settlement agreements [previously] reached between Janice Rooney and Mickey Rooney.”
“What the will tried to say is that Jan had given up of her rights to Mickey’s estate through these agreements,” says Jan’s attorney, Eugene Belous. “And that is just not the case. In financial terms, this estate is virtually nothing.”
“But Jan and Mickey were married for almost four decades,” the lawyer continues. “This estate is made up almost completely of community property and Jan has one half interest in that. There are future royalty rights and likeness rights that might produce revenue over time. And there is memorabilia – an Oscar, a couple of Emmys, a lot of stuff Mickey collected over the years.”
Rooney addressed the issue of likeness rights with PEOPLE during an interview in 1999. Asked how he would feel regarding use of his image for commercial purposes after his death, Rooney responded: “They’d have to get Jan’s approval. I’d give her the approval.”
A Tribute to Mickey Rooney