Even if you were not alive in 1969 when the news broke about the murders committed by Charles Manson and his followers, you probably know his name through books, movies, or possibly music. Although Manson died while incarcerated in 2017, the film, Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood revived his story when it was released in 2019.
BRMM attorney Andrew Mayoras recently gave a television interview to discuss who inherited Charles Manson estate assets and explain the complicated factors and parties involved. Attorneys Danielle and Andrew Mayoras also co-authored an article for Forbes.com explaining the status of the estate a few years ago. While this hotly disputed case is still pending you may wonder why anyone would want to be associated with a mass murderer or his estate.
What is the Charles Manson Estate Worth?
Because he was incarcerated for almost five decades, Manson’s physical assets are reported to include only a couple of guitars, some art, a few writings, and more than 100 songs he authored while in prison. This is part of where the estate’s potential value lies. Three of Manson’s songs have been commercially recorded by Guns N’ Roses, Marilyn Manson, and the Beach Boys. Ongoing royalties for those, or future songs could be substantial.
Beyond music royalties, Manson’s property could be sold as memorabilia since some collectors will pay exorbitant amounts of money for items related to serial killers. This so-called “murderabilia” may become even more valuable due to the release of the Once Upon a Time film and the ongoing court controversy.
Most people would suggest that any profits from the Charles Manson estate should benefit the families of Manson’s victims. Unfortunately, those potential claims have most likely expired in the many years since the deadly crimes were committed.
Who is Claiming a Right to the Charles Manson Estate?
Since his death, several people have tried to stake a claim to Manson’s remains and the assets held in his estate. I have been closely following the court battle that has been pending in California to sort out the potential beneficiaries. One of the key questions is whether the court should accept one of several proposed wills or if Manson died intestate (without a valid will) so his estate would pass by legal succession under California law.
Four major players have been involved over the past years, but two have dropped out leaving only two remaining claimants vying for the right to Manson’s estate. Originally, a man named Matt Lentz claimed he was Manson’s biological son who was given up for adoption at birth. Another petition was filed by Nancy Claassen who said she was Manson’s half-sister. Neither of these claims is still pending.
The remaining two parties are Michael Channels and Jason Freeman. Channels was a 30-year pen pal with Manson while Manson was incarcerated. Mr. Channels claims he has a written will from Manson that names Channels as executor and beneficiary of the entire estate.
Freeman claims to be Manson’s grandson through Freeman’s father, Charles Manson, Jr. who eventually changed his name and committed suicide. Part of Freeman’s case involves proving he is legally Manson’s heir. Through birth certificates and a prior court order that awarded Freeman’s mother child support from Manson Jr., the California court agreed that Freeman is Manson’s grandson. In 2018, the court awarded Manson’s remains to Freeman.
Several Legal Questions are Yet to be Resolved
Although this case has been pending since Manson’s death in late 2017, a few important legal issues must be resolved before the Charles Manson estate is closed.
Is There a Valid Will?
Now that the court has determined that Freeman is a potential heir to the Manson estate, the next legal question is whether a valid will exists that would control how the estate is distributed. California law states all wills must be witnessed by two disinterested people who also sign the will. There is an exception that permits a witness to also be a beneficiary (so not truly disinterested) but that person must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the will was not executed:
By fraudulent means,
While the testator was under duress, or
As a result of undue influence.
Mr. Channels claims he has a written will, executed by Charles Manson in 2002 after the pen pal relationship began. That document was allegedly signed by Manson, an independent witness, and Channels. The will appoints Channels as the executor and beneficiary of Manson’s estate. Thus, the burden is on Channels to prove that Manson signed the will voluntarily.
We expect it will be challenging for Channels to prove the validity of the 2002 will because he has previously stated on the record that the will was unexpectedly sent to him after he met Manson in person. If Channels didn’t know about the will until it arrived by mail, he was probably not present when it was signed. Under these circumstances, Channels should have a difficult time proving the 2002 will is valid.
If There is No Valid Will, Does the Grandson Prevail?
If the court determines that Manson did not have a valid will in place at the time of his death, California probate laws control how the estate is resolved. Now that the other alleged relatives are no longer involved in the case, and after the death of Charles Manson, Jr., the remaining next-of-kin is Jason Freeman. The court already decided that Freeman is Manson’s legitimate grandson and released Manson’s remains to Freeman. However, that doesn’t resolve the legal validity of the proposed 2002 will. The dispute could continue for months or possibly years before a final resolution is reached.
How Does the Controversy of Who Inherited Charles Manson Estate Proceeds Affect You?
As estate planning and probate attorneys, our team at Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras P.C. understands that even small estates that might not seem extremely valuable can turn into dramatic, family-destroying court battles. To avoid leaving your loved ones in a tumultuous situation, we recommend you have at least a basic will that complies with your state laws.
To improve the chances that your will can withstand a court challenge, it’s important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Our attentive and thorough lawyers ensure our clients’ wills are properly prepared and executed according to the applicable state laws. We will not allow someone to sign a will if we believe they are being pressured to sign, or if they are not legally competent to make the necessary decisions required for a valid will.
Trust Us to Help Create a Solid Estate Plan Today
The compassionate lawyers atBarron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, P.C. offer extensive estate planning services including wills, trusts, and other customized planning documents. Our firm has been a community pillar for more than 40 years and our clients know they can count on our dedication and vast experience when they trust us for legal advice.
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