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Top 2014 Entertainment, Trademark & Copyright Law Blog Posts

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Estate of Jack Kerouac: Copyrights and Forged Wills

Estate of Jack KerouacWhen author Jack Kerouac died in 1968, he left everything to his mother, Gabrielle. When she died five years later, she in turn left everything via her will to Kerouac’s third wife, Stella Sampas. For the next 19 years the Sampas family controlled Kerouac's estate.

Pursuant to a Florida court ruling in 2009, Gabrielle's will has now been deemed a forgery.  Estate of Gabriella Kerouac, 73004767ES (Pinellas Co. Probate Ct.). The Court did not declare who forged the will, just that evidence was sufficient to show Gabriella was not in good enough health to have executed the will.

Jan Kerouac, Jack's daughter by his second marriage lead the charge to challenge Gabriella's will 1) after seeing a copy of the will and questioning the authenticity; 2) after speaking with John Steinbeck, Jr. --- who told her about copyright renewals.

As of August 2010, the Kerouac case is on appeal.  For in-depth information on this case read The Battle for Jack Kerouac's Estate.

For more about the John Steinbeck case and why John Steinbeck, Jr. knows about copyright renewals under the 1909 U.S. Copyright Act read here.