Six months after the death of Charles Mason, the battle over his estate continues.
Initially, there were four people competing for the Manson estate; however, Michael Brunner, a purported son of Manson, voluntarily withdrew his claim to the estate because he was legally adopted by his maternal grandparents, which prohibited from being an heir of Manson.
The second person alleging a claim to the Manson estate is Michael Channels who became pen pals with Manson. Channels alleges that Manson executed a February 2002 will that named him as the executor and sole beneficiary of his estate. This will specifically disinherits all children and other relatives.
The third person alleging a claim to the Manson estate is Jason Freeman, who allegedly is Manson’s grandson (son of Charles Manson, Jr., who has passed away). Freeman argues that the 2002 will is invalid because it witnessed by Channels, who is named beneficiary in that will. California law requires that a will be signed by two disinterested individuals at least 18 years of age. “Disinterested witnesses” means someone that is not named in the will and does not benefit from the will. Because Channels was named as the executor and beneficiary of the will, he is not a disinterested witness, as required by California law. But, there is an exception to this rule. If one of the witnesses to the will is not a disinterested person, that person has the burden of proof to show that the execution of the will was not caused by duress, coercion, or undue influence. Channels may have a difficult time meeting this burden as he has testified under oath that the will was sent to him unexpectedly after meeting Manson which implies that Channels was not present when the will was signed.
The final individual that alleged a claim to the Manson estate is Matt Lentz, who claims he is the biological son of Manson. The adoption negates any claim he has as an heir to the Manson estate; however, he alleges that he has a 2017 will executed by Manson that names Lentz as the sole beneficiary. In May 2018, Lentz missed a Probate hearing. Therefore, the Court will dismiss his claim unless he can convince the Court that he should not be dismissed from the action.
What exactly are the alleged beneficiaries fighting over? The estate of Charles Manson has been purported to be worth between $400,000 to over a million dollars. If you are anything like me, you are asking yourself, how can the estate of a man who became famous for committing profound acts of evil be worth this amount. After a little digging, we discovered that Manson wrote over 100 songs, two of which were commercially recorded, including “Look at Your Game, Girl” by Guns N’ Roses. Additionally, there are merchandise and belongings associated with the serial murderer. For example, a Victoria bed frame allegedly connected to one of the Manson murders sold for $14,000. Some appraisers believe that even articles of clothing of Manson could sell for thousands. Finally, those fighting over the rights to Manson’ estate allege that his image and publishing rights could be worth a pretty penny.
The moral of the story is that even estates that people assume are of little to no value can be the subject of nasty, contentious court battles which is why is it so important for every adult to at least have a basic will. However, most people can benefit from a trust, but for more the benefits of a revocable trust, see our other blog articles or schedule a complimentary consultation with an experienced estate planning/probate attorney.