COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. — Victims of a deadly 2019 boat crash involving Paul Murdaugh, Alex Murdaugh’s son, made legal moves this week to make sure they get justly compensated in pending lawsuits related to the incident, WCIV reports.
The family of Mallory Beach, who was killed in the boat crash, filed a $50 million creditor’s claim Monday in Colleton County, South Carolina’s probate court against the estates of Paul Murdaugh and his late mother, Maggie Murdaugh.
Boat crash survivors Morgan Doughty and Miley Altman also have filed creditors claims against the Murdaugh’s estates for $10 million and $5 million, respectively, online probate records show.
Creditor’s claims against an estate are a legal means for individuals to get money they feel they’re owed from someone after their death. Family members can either accept creditors claims and agree to pay them, or dispute them, leading to potential battles in probate court.
Creditor’s claims, if accepted or awarded by a probate judge, must be paid to third parties before surviving families can receive any proceeds from an estate.
The proceeds of both Maggie’s and Paul’s estates are set to go to husband and father Alex Murdaugh after the probate process is completed.
Alex Murdaugh currently sits in the Richland County jail with a $7 million bond, awaiting trial on over 70 charges related to fraud and money laundering schemes prosecutors say he used to steal $8.4 million over the course of 11 years.
In addition to those legal troubles, Alex Murdaugh is also the defendant in several pending civil lawsuits, in which plaintiffs are seeking millions of dollars in damage compensation from Murdaugh.
The bulk of Alex Murdaugh’s pending lawsuits center around the 2019 boat crash and death of Mallory Beach. Beach’s family along with boat passengers Connor Cook and Anthony Cook all have filed lawsuits coming out of that incident.
That’s where the estates of Maggie and Paul come into play. From Maggie’s estate, Alex would be entitled to the valuable real estate she owned at the time of her death. Those are a vacation home on Edisto Beach, and 1,700 acres of property in Colleton and Hampton counties that include the family’s home in Colleton County’s Moselle community.
Paul’s estate, meanwhile, does not include any substantial assets, according to testimony by attorney John T. Lay during a recent bond reduction hearing for Alex Murdaugh.
A judge last year essentially froze Alex Murdaugh’s bank accounts, and appointed Lay and former U.S. Attorney Peter McCoy to oversee the family’s finances to prevent liquidation of assets amid the mountain of lawsuits against Murdaugh.
Weeks before a judge froze Alex Murdaugh’s assets, courts placed lis pendens on numerous properties owned by Alex and his late wife in connection to the Beach family’s lawsuit.
A lis pendens is basically a legal red flag warning possible buyers a property is tied up in litigation and may be subject to a lien. It’s meant to deter sale of the properties while the lawsuits are ongoing.
Last week, Alex Murdaugh’s brother, John Marvin Murdaugh, petitioned the courts to lift the lis pendens on the properties in Maggie Murdaugh’s estate, allowing those properties to be sold.
John Marvin Murdaugh is the personal representative for Maggie Murdaugh’s estate, probate records show.
In the filings last week, attorneys for John Marvin Murdaugh argue the lis pendens on Maggie Murdaugh’s properties are frivolous and without merit, and the Beach family has no legal claim to continue them.
Billy Newsome, one of the lawyers for John Marvin Murdaugh, insisted Tuesday the wranglings with respect to the the lis pendens are not part of some illicit scheme to deprive anyone of money they may be owed.
“[John Marvin] is not working with Alex or anyone else, and will not make distributions of any sales proceeds to Alex or anyone else, until the court directs him who to pay,” Newsome told the Island Packet newspaper, which first reported details of the creditors claims filed against Maggie and Paul Murdaugh’s estates.
Mark Tinsley, attorney for Mallory Beach’s family, isn’t convinced. Tinsley told the Island Packet “John Marvin’s move to cancel the lis pendens is a clear indication ... he and Alex are trying to maneuver to avoid the claims against (the Moselle property).”
As for the eye-popping $65 million in creditors claims, Tinsley explained to WCIV the dollar figures are somewhat arbitrary.
Any monetary awards to the Beach family from the pending civil lawsuit is the dollar amount that the Murdaugh estate will ultimately be held liable to pay, Tinsley said.
“When you file a claim against an estate, you have to specify an amount,” Tinsley said via text message. “So in essence, the (creditors) claims are just a placeholder.”
Mallory Beach died after being thrown overboard from a boat owned by Alex Murdaugh early the morning of February 24, 2019, in Beaufort County.
Paul Murdaugh was reportedly driving his father’s boat that morning, and was alleged to be heavily intoxicated after a night of underage drinking with Beach, Morgan Doughty, Miley Altman, Connor Cook and Anthony Cook.
Paul Murdaugh would be charged with felony boating under the influence weeks after the crash, and was awaiting trial on those charges at the time of his own death.
Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were murdered outside their Colleton County home in June 2021. Their deaths remain unsolved, and no suspects have been charged in connection to that incident.
Alex Murdaugh so far is the only person named as a person of interest in that murder case, a detail confirmed by his own lawyers. Attorneys Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian represent Alex Murdaugh, and insist he had nothing to do with his wife’s and son’s killings.
(WATCH BELOW: SC police release 911 calls related to Murdaugh’s housekeeper’s accidental fall)
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