So, I was reading the Wikipedia page on the Jonestown massacre, and I noticed that several members of the People's Temple (including their leadership) willed all of their money to the Communist Party of the USSR. It doesn't mention whether it actually arrived there, though, or if it was instead given to surviving family members of the cult members, like inheritances usually are.

As a result, I was wondering how much, if any, of the money of the cult and its members got given to the Communist Party - and whether or not the USSR Communist Party made any public statements about the matter.

1 Answer 1


It would appear no money was paid out to the communist party, but it wasn't directly paid the the individuals heirs either.

Any funds associated with the Peoples Temple cult were located in a lengthy search, then court proceedings established payment rates to cover the massive amount of claims made against this group. An extensive discussion of the process of finding the monies and the distribution in the aftermath can be found in chapter 13 of the 1985 book A Sympathetic History of Jonestown: The Moore Family Involvement in the Peoples Temple by Rebecca Moore.

This mentions that there were over $14.7 million dollars in claims, but the heirs did receive the largest portion of the payouts (emphasis mine):

The airstrip claimants, whose involvement was accidental, received the largest settlements. Jackie Speier got $360,000; the five Ryan children, $135,000, or $27,000 each. The largest total amount of money, however, $7.9 million, went to relatives of the victims.

So the heirs of any individuals did get inheritance of a sort, but it was split among them on a payment basis:

...estimated the payments at $328 per year, based on the life expectancy of the deceased.

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    There is a significant language (and perhaps legal) error here. If a person makes a will leaving their money to someone or some organization, then that person or group IS their heir, by definition. Simply being related to a deceased person does not make one an heir, unless they died intestate. Or unless they can afford crooked lawyers (if that's not an oxymoron) to contest the will :-(
    – jamesqf
    Apr 8, 2020 at 16:09
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    The OP used the term will, but I suspect he was referencing the letters left by a couple of the individuals you can see mentioned in the wiki article here. There was also an attempt to get a letter to the soviets giving over the greater portion of the cults funds held in Swiss bank account. I didn't find anything directly discussing the notes or letters found, but since all these accounts were frozen and distributed at a later point, it does not appear these letters were actually given the weight of actual wills.
    – justCal
    Apr 8, 2020 at 16:22
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    OK, that seems to clarify the legalities, in that if there weren't wills leaving money to the Soviets (or anyone else), then the heirs would be determined by the intestacy laws of the state/country where the people happened to reside. Probably relatives.
    – jamesqf
    Apr 9, 2020 at 2:37

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