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.
After Manson’s death, two conflicting wills were filed with the Kern County Coroner. One man who claims to have been a friend of Manson’s for decades filed a will dated January 2017. The executor who filed the will is a vendor of Manson-related memorabilia; the will is signed by only one witness, in violation of California law. Another Manson memorabilia dealer has filed a contesting will; he claims to have held the will since 2002. This will lists the beneficiary himself as a witness days before the will was executed, also in violation of California law.
While the Manson case may be more heavily contested than most post-death litigation, many estates can see legal challenges develop following a death. Unclear wills, questionable documents and inheritance disputes may drive many heirs to the courtroom. An estate litigation lawyer may be able to work with heirs and beneficiaries to protect against theft of their inheritance and depletion of the estate.