Broke ... Veteran actor Mickey Rooney leaves nothing in his will to his estranged wife and eight children. Photo: AP
Mickey Rooney signed his last will just weeks before death, leaving a modest estate to stepson Mark Aber, who had been his caretaker, but the actor had no intention of ending his Hollywood career anytime soon, his lawyer says.
Rooney's death on Sunday occurred after the actor began to have difficulty breathing during an afternoon nap, lawyer Michael Augustine said on Tuesday.
Mickey Rooney dead at 93
" Strike Up The Band ", starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. 1940
The actor had been in good spirits and was looking forward to continuing to appear in movies after filming a scene for the upcoming instalment of the Night at the Museum franchise.
Augustine said Rooney, 93, passed a physical required before he could start filming and his death was due to natural causes, including complications related to diabetes.
Police and coroner's officials were informed of Rooney's death but said no investigation of it was necessary.
But another stepson Christopher Aber, 55, yesterday told the Daily Mail that he believed Rooney choked on his own food and laid the blame on younger brother Mark, at whose home Rooney died.
Christopher has been accused of stealing $2.8 million from Rooney and was issued with a restraining order in 2011 after Augustine successfully argued that Christopher had been physically and emotionally abusing his client for several years by depriving Rooney of food and medications, prohibiting him from leaving his house and taking control over his finances.
Christopher, however, painted a similar picture of his brother Mark, who he claimed had been keeping Rooney "hostage" and preventing him from picking up the phone to his wife Jan, who remains in contact with Christopher but not Mark.
"The sad part is that my mother has not been with my father for the last year, they’re not divorced, they’re legally married, living separately," Christopher told Daily Mail.
He claimed his brother manipulated legal proceedings to put Rooney into his care rather than allow him to be cared for by their mother.
"He was put in charge of Mickey, and he moved him to Studio City, they got to live freely, getting paid to look after him," Christopher told Daily Mail yesterday.
"Well, he choked on his own food when he died, that's how he died, they should have been looking after him. No-one was there to pat him on the back? I found out when I spoke to the doctors."
Rooney's will has now been filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. It was signed by Rooney on March 11 and called for his stepson Mark to be main beneficiary of the actor's estate, which is valued at only $US18,000 ($19,290).
Rooney designated Augustine to serve as the executor of his estate, stating that he did not want any relative handling his final affairs.
Despite a show business career spanning more than 80 years, Rooney said he had lost most of his fortune because of elder abuse and financial mismanagement by Christopher. Augustine said despite an agreement for millions to be repaid to the actor, it was unlikely the estate could ever collect on the judgment.
Rooney's will effectively disinherited the actor's eight surviving children, as well as his estranged wife. Jan Rooney (nee Chamberlin) will receive only her husband's Social Security benefits and some of his pension earnings as a result of a previous agreement; Augustine said Rooney felt that provided adequate care for her. He said Rooney's children were in better financial situations than the actor, so he felt it was appropriate to leave Mark all he had left.
The star of the Andy Hardy films and Hollywood's highest paid actor in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Rooney was a product of the industry's old studio system and was not entitled to hefty royalty payments, Augustine said.
It was widely known that Rooney was a notorious gambler, who also lost money in numerous divorces and had to file for bankruptcy in 1962. He married his eighth wife and widow Jan Chamberlin in 1978.
Plans are still being made for Rooney's burial and a possible tribute, Augustine said. An agreement was reached Tuesday not to move the actor's body from a mortuary until a court hearing Friday that may help determine where he is to be laid to rest.
Augustine said that while Rooney has a burial plot in Westlake Village, northwest of Los Angeles, the actor had said recently he wanted to be buried in Hollywood or a veteran's cemetery.
"We were going to buy plots," Augustine said, but the actor "didn't have any money."
He said the family would like to have a small private service, but hopes that a larger celebration of Rooney's life and career can be arranged with help from film companies.
AP, with Aja Styles