By Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The estranged wife of actor Mickey Rooney and his estate are locked in a legal tussle over the remains of the late Hollywood movie star, who left an estate of only $18,000, according to court documents.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Steele will decide at a hearing on Friday whether Rooney's remains will be released from an area mortuary to his wife, Janice Rooney, or to his conservator.
The versatile character actor, who was one of Hollywood's biggest stars in the 1930s, died at age 93 on Sunday from natural causes. He disinherited his wife and all his children in a will dated March 11, leaving his estate to stepson Mark Rooney, who with his wife served as Rooney's caregiver.
Rooney's conservator, Michael Augustine, was granted a court order on Tuesday stopping Janice Rooney from removing the actor's remains from a mortuary in Glendale, California.
Augustine said Rooney wanted to be buried at Los Angeles' Hollywood Forever cemetery, where many Hollywood actors are buried, or at a cemetery for U.S. veterans. Rooney served in the military as an entertainer during World War Two.
He also has a burial plot in Westlake Village, California.
"We think we'll be able to cut a deal, a deal being between me and her," Augustine said.
An attorney for Janice Rooney was not immediately available to comment.
Rooney wed eight times, including a marriage to actress Ava Gardner. In 2011 he testified before a U.S. Senate committee that he had been emotionally and financially abused by family members, sapping much of his savings.
Rooney and his last wife did not live together after 2012. She will receive his Social Security and some of his pension benefits, which will total about $8,400 a month, Augustine said.
Rooney earns about $20,000 to $25,000 per year on residuals from his later film work, Augustine said.
The actor was one of the last living links to Hollywood's silent era, and did not earn residuals from early classics like 1944's "National Velvet."
"He gets more money from the 'Care Bears' than he does from that," Augustine said, referring to the 1985 animated film in which Rooney voiced the character of Mr. Cherrywood.
In 2011, Rooney sued stepson Christopher Aber and his wife, alleging elder abuse and mismanagement of his funds. Augustine said the couple agreed to a settlement worth millions with Rooney, but the actor's estate has been unable to collect because of Aber's financial troubles.
Rooney is survived by eight children and two stepsons. His son Timothy Rooney died in 2006.
Augustine said Rooney's funeral is expected to be small and attended by family with a larger public tribute planned later.
Rooney starred in the "Andy Hardy" movies as a teen during the Great Depression and acted alongside Judy Garland and later Elizabeth Taylor.
(This story has been refiled to correct paragraph 10 to show $8,400 a month reflects Social Security and pension benefits, not just Social Security)
(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Prudence Crowther)