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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Everyone's fighting over Charles Manson's estate

I recently read an interesting article in Forbes about the fact that at least three different people are fighting over who gets to be the executor of the estate of notorious killer Charles Manson. One claims to be Manson's son, another claims to be his grandson, and the third is a collector of Manson memorabilia who visited Manson in prison. Click here to read the article.

The fight is about which will is valid. Each of these three people claims to have in his possession a will signed by Manson which appoints the holder of the will as the executor and as the beneficiary.

It's all a bit lurid given the notorious past of the murderous Charles Manson. It's made even worse, in my view, by people such as a collector of memorabilia showing up with a will that just happens to give him Manson's possessions and - specifically spelled out in the will - Manson's body. There are cases in which a million dollars would be too little to tempt me to be a probate judge for even one day, and this is one of them.

There aren't many Charles Mansons in the world, thank God, and most of us will never attract the attention of collectors of dark memorabilia. Even so, the main issue in Manson's estate is the same issue as in many ordinary estates: greed. People behave strangely when there is money on the line.

Another issue highlighted by this case is that of someone apparently making serial wills. Because each of Manson's purported wills was vastly different from the others in every possible way, because they were made without legal advice, and because they were apparently stored in various places, it makes it harder to discern his real intentions. There is no consistency in terms of his wishes.

In most people, such abrupt swings from one choice to another might signal mental incapacity and/or undue influence. Perhaps nobody expects mental stability from Manson but we do hope it's present in our relatives when they make their wills, and a series of different wills like this can be a warning sign that all is not right.

The attached photo of Charles Manson is from Wikipedia.

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