Who owns the casket used to bury someone? That is the unusual question facing a Texas judge. Lee Harvey Oswald, President John F. Kennedy’s assassin, was buried days after he shot President Kennedy and was in turn shot by Jack Ruby. The casket in which he was buried had been purchased by his brother, Robert Oswald, for $300 in 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald’s widow, Marina, had asked Robert Oswald to make the funeral arrangements for her husband.
In 1981, Lee Harvey Oswald’s body was exhumed to verify the identity of the corpse. After his identity had been verified, it was determined that the casket had too much water damage for reburial. Therefore, it was not reburied with Lee Harvey Oswald’s body. Instead, the funeral home kept it in its warehouse until 2010, when it auctioned it for $87,468, until the sale was blocked by Robert Oswald.
In the lawsuit, Robert Oswald claims that he purchased and still owns the casket. The funeral home claims that, while Robert Oswald purchased the casket, he made a gift of the casket to his deceased brother by allowing him to be buried in it. The funeral home alleges that it now owns the casket since nobody claimed it back in 1981. However, neither Marina Oswald nor Robert Oswald were notified that the casket had not been reburied with Lee Harvey Oswald and had not been destroyed. Essentially, the funeral home seems to be arguing that the casket became its property through some sort of adverse possession.
We will see what the Texas court decides. It would seem that the casket would be the property of Robert Oswald or of the estate of Lee Harvey Oswald. For more information, here’s a recent story on the topic in USA Today.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555