Will Charles Manson’s Helter-skelter Estate Battle Be Coming to a Dead End?

Will Charles Manson’s Helter-skelter Estate Battle Be Coming to a Dead End?

The battle over the estate of notorious murderer Charles Manson (who died in 2017) may soon be finally coming closer to a conclusion. However, it is likely that the hearing (set for later this month) will only get one step closer to finalization. Three people are left in the fight over Mansion’s murderabilia which is estimated to be worth $400,000 to $1 million.  

Michael Channels, a California memorabilia collector and pen pal of Manson while Manson was serving his life sentence, applied for probate around 5 years ago with a will declaring that the will was Manson’s. The purported 2002 will of Manson indicated Channels was the sole beneficiary and the sole executor of Manson’s estate. The estate consists of a few guitars, clothing, artwork, and songs written by Manson. Three songs have been recorded by well-known recording artists, Guns ‘N Roses, The Beach Boys, and Marilyn Manson. His name, image, and likeness also have value. Channels was a witness to the will signing. In Texas (as in most states), a witness cannot be a beneficiary. However, it is permitted under California law if it could be proved that there was no undue influence, duress, menace, or fraud. One of the contestants, Daniel Arguelles (who claims to be Manson’s biological son) has argued Manson’s signature is significantly different compared to numerous signatures of Manson found online.

The next hearing is set for March 29th to determine whether Arguelles is Manson’s biological son. Even if a DNA test proved that Arguelles was Manson’s biological son, the other contestant, Jason Freeman (who claims to be the grandson of Manson as he has alleged he is the son of Charles Manson, Jr.) has objected to Arguelles claim since Arguelles was adopted by a non-related party.

Although there is no doubt that Charles Manson had a son, Charles Manson, Jr. (who changed his name and predeceased his infamous father) as his birth certificate has been produced, there is a question as to whether Freeman is Charles Manson, Jr.’s son. He claims that since Manson, Jr. never answered a lawsuit for child support after Manson, Jr.’s divorce from Freeman’s mother, the default judgment against Charles Manson, Jr. is de facto evidence that Freeman is Manson Jr.’s son and thus Charles Manson’s grandson. The first of the four judges on this never-ending case disagreed with that conclusion although the existing judge seems to accept that as evidence. 

Previously when Channels requested a DNA test of Freeman, he (Freeman) fought that request. You would think Freemen would not have objected. It should also be mentioned that there was no named father on Freeman’s birth certificate.

It will be up to the court to determine if the will is valid. If so, Channels would be entitled to the estate. 

If not, the court will have to decide whether Freeman or Arguelles is an heir of Manson’s which will require DNA testing.  

If it were up to this author, none of the claimants should be entitled to profit from being the beneficiary or heir of a murderer. It would be my hope the families of the victims be compensated. 

Another option would be to pay the state for its cost of prosecution and taking care of Manson for life.

This unusual case is just another example of the need for estate planning – even for someone who seemingly had nothing.

If interested in learning more about this article or other estate planning, Medicaid and public benefits planning, probate, etc., attend one of our free upcoming Estate Planning Essentials workshops by clicking here or calling 214-720-0102. We make it simple to attend and it is without obligation. 

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