Custody battle delays Coleman funeral

Legal battle • Estranged parents want control.
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The funeral for child actor Gary Coleman won't be held this weekend, as a fight begins to unfold between the actor's ex-wife and his estranged parents over the custody of his body.

Blake Yates, the Memorial Estates funeral director handling the services, confirmed Thursday that the service — originally scheduled for this weekend — has been canceled.

"The family [his parents] has different plans than what is in Gary's will," said Coleman's agent, Shielia Erickson.

Meanwhile, Coleman's parents, W.G. "Willie" and Edmonia Sue Coleman have hired Orem attorney Frederick A. Jackman, who plans to file for formal probate in 4th District Court, Jackman said in a statement Thursday night.

"The Colemans don't want to fight with anyone. They just want to bring their son home. Mr. and Mrs. Coleman are Gary Coleman's surviving family. They're hoping that by applying for formal probate, they can get through this process the right way," according to the statement. "The status of the divorce, whether or not anyone has a will, these are all issues that should be brought to the family's attention immediately. Formal probate is the way we make sure it all gets handled properly."

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Coleman's parents want his body delivered to his birthplace of Zion, Ill., where the Colemans live.

Coleman was taken off life support May 28 following a fall in his home two days earlier that resulted in a brain injury. He was 42.

The parents believe they have the legal right to take over funeral arrangements because Coleman divorced his wife two years ago, said Victor Perillo, who was Coleman's former manager and the couple's spokesman.

Earlier this week, it was confirmed that Coleman and Price, who married in 2007, divorced on Aug. 12, 2008 ,due to "irreconcilable differences," in a decree filed with 4th District Court in Provo.

Erickson said Coleman had left a will. But Coleman's Provo-based attorney, Randy S. Kester said the only trust of the actor's that he has seen was unsigned.

"He had an old trust prepared, by whom I don't know," Kester said. "Every copy I had seen was unsigned. He just simply wouldn't take the time to go and get that done."

Erickson confirmed that the parents would like Coleman either to be buried in Zion or at Los Angeles' Forest Lawn Memorial, a cemetery known as the burial site for many Hollywood celebrities.

But Erickson said Price only wants to carry out the actor's last wishes and that she has the legal authority to make those decisions.

"It's clear that Shannon is the one that Gary wants to represent him, as she did in the hospital," Erickson said. "He didn't mention, at any time, his parents."

Price decided to pull her ex-husband from life support after being given legal authority to make all medical decisions on behalf of the actor, according to a statement by Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, where Coleman died.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.