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Larry King and the Handwritten Will

Television and radio host, Larry King, died in January 2021 at age 87. At the time of his death, his estimated worth was $144 million, and he was divorcing his seventh wife, Shawn.

Apparently, Larry King had a Trust with his wife, where she would inherit assets. Since the divorce was not finalized, the terms of the Trust are likely still valid.

In October 2019, Larry created a handwritten Will (called a “holographic Will”) which stated that $2 million of his estate was to be equally divided among his five children upon his death. The Will makes no mention of his wife, and two of those five children had passed away in 2020.

Wills, whether handwritten or not, are public documents once filed with the probate court. Wills require lengthy court probate proceedings. Living Trusts, on the other hand, are private and handled without court involvement.

Wife Shawn is contesting the holographic Will. There will likely be many future court hearings to decide such issues as: Is the holographic Will valid? Did Larry simply “forget” about his wife by mistake? Was Larry of sound mind when he wrote the new Will? Was he “unduly influenced” by an adult child to cut Shawn out?

While these issues may be battled in court while the world watches, there are lessons to be learned. The most important lesson: have your legal documents prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney. Do not do them yourself, do not go to a “non-lawyer”, and do not download forms from the internet. The estate planning attorney will know the pitfalls, give you the best options given your situation, and help you avoid potential problems.

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