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Irvine Legal Blog

Manson's body and estate subject of four-way inheritance dispute

A deceased California cult leader remains in ongoing litigation as at least four parties vie for the right to claim his body. Charles Manson died on Nov. 19, 2017, at age 83 after spending 46 years in prison for his role in the murder of seven people in 1969. Since that time, two relatives and two others who claim to have a legitimate will from Manson have been engaged in litigation over the man's estate.

Manson's grandson was the first to file a claim in Los Angeles Probate Court over the estate and Manson's body. He lives in Florida and has traveled to the state for court appearances, saying that he would donate any money received, have the body cremated and spread the ashes. Another claimant is Manson's son, who claims that he is the cult leader's closest surviving relative. He says that he wishes to cremate Manson and scatter the ashes.

Lawsuits related to James Brown's estate continue

A lawsuit filed in a California federal court in January is one of over a dozen dealing with the disputed estate of the singer James Brown, who died in 2006. Brown's will left around $2 million worth of effects to the six children he acknowledged as belonging to him, $2 million to his grandchildren to be used as scholarships, and most of the rest of the estate to the I Feel Good Trust, which was established by Brown to give scholarships to children in Georgia and South Carolina. Unfortunately, none of his beneficiaries have received that money.

Brown was married several times. Some of his children and grandchildren initially challenged the will on the grounds that his drug problems meant he was not of sound mind in making the estate plan. A proposal by the South Carolina attorney general was that the children and grandchildren should get a quarter of the estate and his widow should get another quarter, but the state's highest court threw this out on appeal.

Estate planning may be difficult for blended families

It is not uncommon for stepmothers and stepchildren to become involved in estate disputes. In California and throughout the country, will and trust contests and other matters often involve these parties. Stepmothers tend to be in these types of conflicts partially because of an increased life expectancy. Women who are age 65 today can expect to live to age 86 on average. A man who is 65 today can expect to live to age 84 on average.

It is also worth noting that there are 11.2 million widowed females compared to 2.9 million widowed males. Therefore, these disputes are not necessarily occurring because a stepmother is an evil person. Instead, it represents a demographic imbalance and the tension that can arise when a blended family has to resolve matters related to a deceased person's estate. Furthermore, research shows that stepmothers and their stepchildren don't necessarily have the same worldview to begin with.

Resigning or removing a trustee in California

For a trustee, being legally responsible for managing, investing, and distributing trust assets can be a daunting task, especially since the trustee is also legally liable should any breach of fiduciary duties occur. Consequently, if you are a trustee who wishes to resign or a beneficiary who wishes to remove a certain trustee, you have to act according to the guidelines dictated by California's trust laws.

In the event that you are a trustee who wishes to resign, you can accomplish this by declaring that you no longer want to serve, by being removed with the consent of the interested parties or by having a court order remove you. In any case, it is important to make sure that you act in accordance with the proper procedures; otherwise, you will still be liable for the trust. Alternatively, if you are a beneficiary trying to remove a trustee, you can acquire a court order to remove them by proving that they have breached one of their fiduciary duties, that they have been self-dealing or that they have been stealing from the trust's assets.

An executor must be in your corner, otherwise say goodbye

Your parents built up their estate through hard work, dedication, smarts and a little bit of luck. Upon their deaths, they likely wanted you and your siblings to benefit from their tidy estate that may include heirlooms such as your great-grandmother’s dresser from the old country, plenty of investments such as stocks and retirement accounts, property and cash.

You want to protect your parents’ estate as well as your surviving family’s interests, and that includes ensuring that your executor is performing his or her duties in a competent, desirable and meaningful way.

Estate disputes: The stepmother phenomenon

Stepmothers face numerous hurdles when becoming part of a blended family and blended families are particularly susceptible to tension and family disputes. Estate disputes between stepmothers and stepchildren are a common occurrence.


3 parties making claims upon estate of Charles Manson

The late Charles Manson, who died at age 83 after decades in prison for orchestrating the deaths of nine people, continues to demand attention from the California legal system. A judge in Los Angeles must now evaluate competing legal claims for Manson's estate. The judge must determine the legitimacy of at least two wills attributed to Manson and three people presenting themselves as heirs.

Initially, the court will select an attorney to administer the estate on behalf of Manson's alleged grandson and next of kin. A second man, a musician, questions this claim and has presented himself as a son of Manson who grew up with an adoptive family. The musician said he will file a will that Manson supposedly signed in January 2017. This will names the musician as the estate's beneficiary.

Challenging wills can get complicated

Challenging a will can be a daunting task, but California residents that believe they have a valid claim may be able to successfully contest a will. Nationwide, 99 percent of all wills pass through probate without problems arising. Probate courts generally stick pretty closely to what the will says since it represents the last wishes of the deceased person.

When a will is contested, the most successful challenges are from spouses that claim that the deceased person lacked the testamentary capability to execute a will while he or she was living or was strongly influenced to write the will a certain way. Successful will challenges can void a will either partially or totally. If the will is totally voided, the court will distribute the property as if the will never existed.

New administrator recommends suit by Prince estate

Californians who are fans of Prince might be interested in learning about the latest twist in the administration of his estate. Recently, the new special administrator who was appointed by the court to oversee the estate submitted findings that Prince's estate should seek the recoupment of legal fees and costs that the estate paid to its former attorneys in a failed $31 million deal with Universal Music Group.

According to news sources, the attorneys negotiated a contract with UMG that would have granted it rights to a package of music, including the previously unreleased music that is contained in Prince's "vault." After the contract was negotiated, UMG decided to back out because of concerns it had about the rights that were granted to Warner Music Group in 2014.

Grounds for contesting a will

When contesting a will, you must have valid grounds. Challenging a will can be problematic because the testator, the author of the will, cannot defend or rationalize their wishes. The court system tends to stick to the testator’s wishes as outlined in the will unless the challenger can prove valid grounds for the will to be contested.


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