Family members in a brewing legal dispute over the body of screen legend Mickey Rooney have reached an agreement on where and how the star should be buried, heading off a potentially costly and public court fight, attorneys announced Thursday afternoon.
The agreement comes on the eve of a court hearing scheduled for Friday morning, at which a judge was to hear arguments from an attorney for Rooney's estranged wife on one side, and Rooney's conservator, who has the support of his stepson Mark Rooney and daughter-in-law, on the other. The conservator had filed court papers Tuesday alleging Jan Chamberlin, the wife, and her son Chris Aber had attempted to move Rooney's body against his express wishes.
On Thursday, the parties agreed Rooney will be buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery alongside other Hollywood figures including Cecil DeMille, Jayne Mansfield and Rudolph Valentino. The funeral will be a small, private family affair, which Chamberlin will attend but Chris Aber and his wife Christina will not, according to an attorney for Chamberlin and court-appointed conservator Mike Augustine, who has been overseeing Rooney's affairs since 2011.
"Mickey had enough lawsuits in life for 10 people; the last thing he needs is for one over where he'll be buried," Augustine said.
Attorneys had said the dispute arose because Chamberlin and Aber believed Rooney should be buried at a Westlake Village cemetery, where Rooney had purchased plots years earlier, next to a future plot for Chamberlin, his eighth wife. The conservator and estate attorneys said Rooney had decided to separate from Chamberlin while living, and would not have wished to be buried with her. They said Rooney wanted a Hollywood burial or a military one.
Chamberlin's attorney said Thursday that while his client still wished to be buried next to Rooney, she ultimately decided the Hollywood Forever arrangement was appropriate.
"After thinking about it and praying about it, she decided, for the sake of his fans and peers, that it was befitting of him as a Hollywood figure," Yevgeny Belous said.
This week's legal tussle was only the latest chapter in a long-running feud in the family which began in 2011 with Rooney accusing Aber of elderly abuse. Rooney alleged through attorneys that his stepson had taken control of his finances, using several million dollars of Rooney's money to underwrite a lavish lifestyle while keeping his stepfather effectively a prisoner in his own home.
Aber settled the case for $2.86 million without admitting any of the allegations, but the judgment was declared "uncollectible" because of his inability to pay.
Rooney died Sunday afternoon at age 93 at the home of Mark Rooney and his wife in Studio City. He had been living apart from his wife since 2012.
A will filed this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court showed Rooney died with $18,000 in assets, from which he disinherited Chamberlin and all of his children and stepchildren, except for Mark Rooney and his wife.