The handwritten Last Will and Testament of famed broadcaster, Larry King, omits his estranged wife, Shawn King (“Shawn”), and she is contesting. Larry King filed for divorce from Shawn (his seventh wife) in August 2019, and his new Will was handwritten on October 17, 2019. The Will named his 5 children (2 of whom subsequently died in 2020) as his sole beneficiaries. Shawn claims that they had an “air-tight” estate plan prepared in 2015 (prior to the divorce filing). She alleges that he made the Will under duress or was unduly influenced when he had had questionable mental capacity due to a stroke. She also claims the “secret” Will violates the terms of two different postnuptial agreements that the couple had signed. Furthermore, she has alleged that King secretly gave $266,000 of community property funds to Larry King, Jr. between 2013 and 2018 and she wants ½ of those funds back.
Usually, one’s Last Will and Testament supersedes any prior Will. Probate litigators often try to invalidate a Will (as Shawn is doing) by using the equitable arguments that the testator: (1) lacked sufficient mental testamentary capacity at the time of the signing; (2) was under undue influence at the time of signing; and/or (3) signed the Will under duress.
Larry King had no legal obligation to either notify his estranged wife of his “secret” Will or name her as a beneficiary unless there was some contractual obligation. Estate planners commonly have “no contest” clauses in Wills or trusts. However, if a person is omitted as a beneficiary, they really have nothing to lose (other than attorney’s fees and court costs) in contesting. As a result, many may give a certain dollar amount that they think would be enough for the slighted beneficiary to not contest. It should be noted that only $2 million of Larry King’s $144 million net worth passed by Will as most of his assets were held in trusts. Only assets held in a deceased individual’s name without a beneficiary designation pass by Will (probate). Assets held in the name of a trust pass outside of probate. Unlike Wills, trusts are private – so it is unknown whether Shawn was the beneficiary of any of King’s trusts. They were married for over 20 years and had 2 children born of such marriage. So far, there has been no report of a suit to contest the trusts.