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2 sides still fighting over Coleman's ashes despite ruling

Published August 31, 2012 1:12 pm

Courts • Head of estate says she, not ex-wife, can best fulfill star's wishes "to be left alone."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • Now that she has control of Gary Coleman's estate, Anna Gray wants to carry out the late child actor's final wish:

To privately scatter Coleman's ashes in an undisclosed location.

"He wanted to be left alone," said Gray, who was granted control of Coleman's estate in a 4th District Court hearing Friday. Gray was the CEO of the corporation formed by the late "Diff'rent Strokes" star.

But attorneys for Shannon Price, Coleman's ex-wife, argued that she, not Gray, should be the one who gets to pick Coleman's final resting place.

"Gary had an advanced health directive naming Shannon [as his representative]," attorney Todd Bradford told 4th District Judge James R. Taylor.

Bradford said state law states that a person named in a legal document executed in the same manner as a will has a right to decide on the disposition of a body.

Taylor thought the argument was a novel concept.

"I have not thought about it as being part of the probate [process]," Taylor said.

He told Bradford to write a legal brief and be prepared to argue his case at a future hearing.

In an earlier interview, Price said that she wanted to scatter a portion of Coleman's ashes at Promontory Summit, the location where the Transcontinental Railroad was completed. Coleman was a model-train buff.

Price also said she wanted to take some of the ashes and wear them in a pendant around her neck.

Gray, who was not at the hearing, told The Salt Lake Tribune in a phone interview that Price's proposed actions clearly go against Coleman's wishes.

"Gary and I talked about what to do with his ashes, and he said I could not tell anyone," Gray said. "Most of life is shades of gray, but some things are black and white."

Gray said that Price's announcement would potentially lead to people visiting the site where Coleman's ashes were scattered, violating Coleman's wishes to be left alone.

Gray also said that reports that Price plans to wear some of Coleman's ashes in a vial were, well, "vile."

Gray said what she plans to do with Coleman's ashes will be in accordance with his wishes and will be a secret she carries to her grave.

Gray gained control of Coleman's estate based on a 2005 will naming her as executor. In May, Taylor ruled that Price, who divorced the actor in 2009, failed to demonstrate she was Coleman's common-law wife, negating a handwritten will naming her as the beneficiary of Coleman's estate.

Coleman died in 2010 after a fall in his Santaquin home. Since then, his ashes have remained in the possession of Robert Jeffs, who as appointed as the administrator of the estate after Coleman's death.

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