June 16, 2009 -- Gary Coleman may have died with few assets to his name, but the ultimate beneficiary of his estate could stand to make millions.
With that much money at stake, it's no surprise that a battle has erupted over his estate. Two of Coleman's exes -- his ex-wife Shannon Price and a former girlfriend and manager, Anna Gray -- have both laid claims to his estate.
"It's not just his present assets anybody is fighting over," Gray's attorney Randy Kester told ABCNews.com. "It's a survivor death benefit that Ms. Price has already grabbed, potential book deals and movie rights. His present assets pale significantly in comparison to what may be garnered. It could potentitally be millions."
At stake are Coleman's 4,405-square-foot home outside Salt Lake City, valued at $315,000, a pension, residuals from Coleman's TV and movie work and the right to license his likeness.
With one will naming Gray as a partial beneficiary and an addendum naming Price as the sole beneficiary, it could be a while before the estate is sorted out.
On Monday, a Utah district judge appointed Provo attorney Robert Jeffs as the special administrator of Coleman's estate to oversee his property and the cremation of his remains until the dispute between his exes is settled.
His cremation was delayed until today so that Gray, who lives in Portland, Ore., could travel to Utah to view his body.
The judge also entered a restraining order last Friday to restrict any more property being removed from Coleman's home. Gray has accused Price of "invading" Coleman's home and removing personal papers and other belongings. The judge ordered all of Coleman's property, including his beloved model trains, to be accounted for.
Price's attorney Mitch Maughan told ABCNews.com that the value of Coleman's estate has been greatly exaggerated.
"It doesn't have a lot of value," he said. "There are a lot of creditors out there. Most likely, his property will have to be sold and disposed of, and at the end of the day there will probably be nothing left over."
Shannon Price Named in Coleman's Codicil
He also said Coleman's pension from the Screen Actors Guild was not in the millions as previously reported. In an interview last week with RadarOnline, Coleman's "Diff'rent Strokes" co-star Todd Bridges said he believed that Coleman was entitled to a multi-million dollar pension.
"He may have died with no money but his pension is huge," Bridges said.
But Maughan said the pension, which lists Price as the beneficiary and does not have to pass through probate, does not amount to "a lot of money."
Despite the current value of the estate, Price is fighting to be named as its executor. She claims that a 2007 codicil, handwritten by Coleman and titled "addendum to all wills and trusts" names her as executor and sole heir.
It will be up to the court to decide if the codicil is valid. One issue is whether the document, which was signed one week after their marriage, was made void after they divorced.
Price maintains that even though she and Coleman were married for only a year before they divorced in August 2008, she should still be considered the "surviving spouse."
Maughan said that weeks after the pair met in 2005 on the set of the movie "Church Ball," they began living together and have continued to live together since.
"They haven't been apart for any period of time," he said. "Notwithstanding the divorce, nothing changed. She didn't even move out of the house. They continued to share joint checking accounts and all of the debts. They filed income taxes as husband and wife."
Maughan said that even though the couple was no longer legally married, they did have a common-law marriage, which is recognized in Utah.
The other issue with the codicil is whether it actually reflects Coleman's wishes or was something he was coerced into signing.
"Anybody who knows Gary would say that's not his language," said Kester, who was Coleman's lawyer for three years in his divorce and several criminal matters before representing Anna Gray.
Anna Gray Still Had Feelings for Coleman
The codicil includes a Latin reference to children, though Coleman and Price did not have any, and includes some odd phrasing, including: "I have made this change of free will and and was not coerced in any way. This I have done because of my personal selfishness and weakness and I love her with all of my heart."
Kester also questions how much love was between the couple.
"The neighbors can tell you about the love," he said. "There are records that will show police were called at least 20 or 30 times to their house."
"Gary had a quick temper and she had her ups and downs, but overall they had a lot more good times than bad times," Maughan said in response.
Kester said Gray, who knew Coleman for eight years, still had strong feelings for the actor. When she learned that Coleman had named her as executor and partial beneficiary in a 2005 will that he signed, she "completely broke down."
"She was so touched by that. It just revived all these emotions," Kester said. "They were close friends, business associates, she was his manager, they lived together."
Ultimately whoever controls Coleman's estate also stands to gain in the future through licensing and merchandising deals.
Michigan probate attorney Andrew Mayoras told ABCNews.com that such deals could generate millions, much like it did for Jimi Hendrix's estate. Hendrix was broke at the time of his death, Mayoras said. But when his estate passed to his father, he grew it into an $80 million venture. When his father died, Hendrix's half sister and brother squabbled over the estate.
In the case of Coleman's estate, Mayoras believes there is the "potential for millions," he said. "They have to know that or there wouldn't be all this fighting."