When Charles Manson passed away at age 83 of natural causes* at the Corcoran State Prison in Corcoran California, he left in his wake a potential legal battle over his estate. Three men currently claim to be the rightful beneficiaries to Manson’s estate: a long-time pen pal, a son, and a grandson of Manson.
Notorious cult leader, Charles Manson, and his followers, the Manson Family, were responsible for a brutal murder spree in August of 1969 targeting members of the Hollywood elite. On his orders, his followers went to Roman Polanski’s house and killed his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, along with four others, including the heiress to the Folger’s fortune, Abigail Folger. They went on to kill two other people the next day. The attacks were meant to be a gruesome as possible in order to further Manson’s goal of inciting a race war.
While Manson did not physically murder any of the victims, he was charged with and convicted of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He and his followers received the death penalty. When California abolished it in 1972, their sentences were commuted to life in prison (it was reinstated only months later).
Now that he is dead, there are questions surrounding his estate. The first is whether there’s anything actually in his estate since he’s been in prison for 46 years. In one of the purported wills, Manson mentions money, clothing, image rights, and his exclusive music catalog. The New York Times reported in 1993 that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of t-shirts bearing Manson’s resemblance go to Manson. However, the co-owner of the business selling the shirts claims it isn’t much and it’s only “gives him enough to buy smokes and Cokes.”
He has also been selling his artwork online, though the paper and crayon drawings are generally priced at less than $20 (and not very good). One of the men who claims to be Manson’s son claims the estate could be worth millions and hopes to sue recording artists who have used Manson’s songs without permission. He also claims the Beach Boys owe $80 million in royalties for the use of a song Manson wrote. These are, however, speculative claims and establishing substantial estate assets will hinge on securing the rights to his music.
Assuming there is an estate worth fighting over, there are three people as of the publication of this post that are claiming they are the rightful heir or beneficiary. The first person is an unnamed pen pal of Manson’s. This pen pal and Manson exchanged letters and calls since the 1990s and he even visited Corcoran Prison occasionally. The pen pal gave TMZ a typed 2002 will with handwritten notes last week. The notes are believed to be in Manson’s handwriting. This will left the aforementioned money, clothing, image rights, and his exclusive music catalog to the pen pal. It also disinherited Manson’s children, friends, guards, cops, and the State of California. Finally, the will dictates that Manson’s body be given to the pen pal. He has 10 days from the date of death to claim the body from the morgue according to morgue policy.
The second man to claim rights to the estate is Matthew Roberts. A Manson groupie, Ben Gurecki, claims he was given a will in January 2017 that leaves the estate to Roberts. Roberts was adopted as an infant, but when he went on a successful search for his birth mother, she revealed that he was the son of Charles Manson. She also claims he was conceived at a 1967 orgy in San Francisco, a fact Manson himself confirmed via letter. A DNA test was performed, but the samples were contaminated and no conclusive results were reached.
Jason Freeman, the son of Charles Manson, Jr., also claims to have the rights to the estate. He learned of his lineage as a teenager and has attempted to have a relationship with his grandfather in recent years. He, however, does not have a will that leaves the estate to him. If the other two wills are declared invalid, then Freeman might have a chance at inheriting.
As it currently stands, there are two wills that two people claim are valid: the pen pal’s 2002 will and the 2017 will that Roberts has. It is not uncommon for someone to execute more than one will, especially when life circumstances change. This happens, for example, when someone gets married or has a child.
The specifics regarding how to properly change or revoke a will vary slightly state by state. In general, you can revoke a will by writing a subsequent will, changing a will by writing a codicil to it, or by burning, tearing, canceling, or destroying the will with the intention of revoking it. If Roberts and Manson had become close in recent years, then perhaps Manson truly did write a new will thereby revoking the 2002 one to the detriment of his long-time pen pal.
It will take some time for this saga to play out and it is unclear how much of an estate Manson even has, but if you or someone you know wants to be sure how to properly revoke a will, it is best to contact an estate attorney, as the laws vary from state to state.
However, if there is a dispute over the validity of a will, you wish to challenge a will, or there is any other dispute regarding a person’s estate, the attorneys at Lindley Law may be able help. Please visit our website at www.lindleylawoffice.com or contact our office at 704-457-1010 to set up a consultation.