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The Heated Battle For Charles Manson’s Estate Is Coming Closer To A Conclusion

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Charles Manson

A years-long battle over the estate of cult leader Charles Manson is one step closer to coming to an end.

Manson was determined to be responsible for a string of murders across Los Angeles in 1969 and was ultimately charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of seven people.

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The cult leader died in jail in November 2017, decades into his sentence. The convicted killer has yet to be laid to rest, however, because of the battle over his estate.

Who is Charles Manson’s estate heir?

The two contenders in the battle for Manson’s estate are Jason Freeman, who claims to be Manson’s grandson, and Michael Channels, a longtime pen pal of the convicted criminal who says he has a will written by Manson that names him as inheritor of the estate.

Charles Manson’s estate is estimated to be over $400,000.

The estate of a murderer may not seem like something to covet, but Manson was no simple murderer.

When the battle began, the estate included Manson’s physical remains, his possessions at the time of his arrest; the rights to use his image and likeness; publishing rights; and music royalties for several songs he wrote. 

Forbes reports that Manson’s musical works include the commercially recorded 1993 Guns N' Roses song "Look at Your Game, Girl" and the 1969 Beach Boys song, "Never Learn Not to Love.”

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Experts have valued the Manson estate to be worth anywhere from $400,000 to several million, according to Newsnation.

The fight to determine the heir to Manson’s estate has been going on since 2017.

The California estate battle was initially between two parties.

The first is Manson fanatic Michael Channels, a Manson memorabilia collector who struck up a pen pal relationship with Manson. 

After exchanging over 50 letters, Channels visited Manson in 2002, at which time he claims Manson drew up and signed a will naming Channels executor of his estate.

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According to Channels, the 2002 copy of the will stated explicitly that he receive all of Manson's music and royalty rights to the songs the cult leader wrote, as well as his image and publishing rights, while also disinheriting anyone claiming to be a child of Manson and all other relatives. 

Charles Manson’s grandson, Jason Freeman, has challenged Michael Channels’ claim to the estate.

Freeman and his attorney have disputed the validity of this will. Freeman is the biological son of Charles Manson Jr, one of Manson’s two acknowledged sons, who died by suicide in 1993.

Freeman was put up for adoption after birth and learned about his roots as a young adult. 

Though Freeman was legally recognized as Mason Jr.’s son, attorneys for Channel say that designation that Manson Jr. was Manson’s biological son was never officially made and invalidates his claims to the estate.

Freeman made some progress in March 2018 when Kern County Commissioner Alisa R. Knight ruled, "Freeman is hereby determined to be the surviving competent adult next of kin of the decedent. No sufficient probative evidence was provided to this court to refute Freeman's claim." 

At that time, Freeman was granted possession of Manson’s remains, according to Bakersfield.com.

He was given a funeral service with around 25 people in attendance, the costs of which were determined to be Freeman’s responsibility as next of kin. Manson was cremated the same day, and his ashes were scattered. 

Charles Manson’s alleged half-sister withdrew her claim to the estate.

Nancy Claassen of Spokane, Washington claimed to be Manson’s half-sister was a third party in the legal battle when she challenged both men to their right to the estate in April 2021.

It’s unclear if Claassen provided a basis for how she was related to Manson, but her lawyers said she was willing to undergo DNA testing, unlike Freeman, who appealed the request for his DNA. 

Claassen’s fight for the estate was short-lived, however. By mid-July 2022, The Los Angeles Times reported Claassen withdrew her petition and was granted dismissal without prejudice, meaning she could file again later should new information come forward.

Meanwhile, Freeman has worked on proving that his father was the biological child of Manson. The Daily Mail reports that Freeman has produced Charles Jr.’s birth certificate.

The birth certificate states that 21-year-old Manson and 18-year-old Rosalie Jean Willis welcomed Manson Jr. on April 10, 1956, in Los Angeles.

What happens next?

Channels has not objected to or challenged the birth and death certificates provided by Freeman’s legal team, but that does not mean that he won’t.

Without that challenge, Freeman may finally gain access to the estate. Regardless of who does take control, anything can happen with the murderer’s story from there.

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Angela Andaloro is a writer who passionately explores all things entertainment, parenting, and true crime. Follow her on Twitter here.

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