Family Contests Larry King’s Handwritten Will

Talk show legend Larry King’s death is giving everyone something to talk about. King and his wife executed an estate plan in 2015, but a hastily handwritten will created in the last months of his life may change everything. The legal battle brewing between King’s wife and his oldest child is a textbook example of how to challenge a loved one’s will. 

It Was Good To Be King

Larry King left his family an extensive estate. TMZ estimates he had a net worth of $144 million, much of which was held in trust. The trust or trusts were presumably created when Larry and his wife Shawn Southwick King created an estate plan back in 2015. 

Trusts are a great tool for anyone looking to pass substantial wealth, or anyone who wants to keep the intimate details of their financial affairs private. Celebrities like King make great use of them, but so do everyday people who value tax savings, privacy, and efficiency. As of this writing, King’s trusts are not being challenged. What is causing a legal stir is his will. 

The Handwritten Will

Around $2 million of King’s assets are not held in trust. Those assets will pass according to what it says in King’s will and any applicable marital agreements. 

King’s son, Larry King Jr. has submitted a hastily handwritten document to the probate court. It states:

“This is my Last Will & Testament. It should replace all previous writings. In the event of my death, any day after the above date I want 100% of my funds to be divided equally among my children Andy, Chaia, Lary Jr Chance & Cannon.”

Sadly, Andy suffered a fatal heart attack and Chaia died from lung cancer just a few months before their father. King had adopted Andy after marrying his mother, the late Alene Akins, and the couple had Chaia together after divorcing and remarrying. 

Chance and Cannon are Larry’s children with Shawn. 

Larry King, Jr. is King’s son with Annette Kaye, who he was briefly married to. King, Jr. would like to be named a special administrator of his father’s estate in light of this document. 

The document is dated October 17, 2019, a few months after King had a heart attack and two months after he had filed for divorce from Shawn.

A Textbook Challenge

King’s wife Shawn is contesting the handwritten will and King, Jr.’s attempt to become an estate administrator. According to reporters who have examined the legal filing, she alleges

  • The couple had two postnuptial agreements that placed limits on Larry King’s ability to make testamentary gifts to his children, and the holographic will violates the terms of those agreements.
  • Shawn King’s attorney also argued that in the last few years of his life, Larry King was “highly susceptible to outside influences” and “of questionable mental capacity,” and, when he wrote the amendment, was “possibly already under the influence of pre-operative medication” following a stroke.
  • Her objection also argues she had a much closer relationship with the longtime CNN talk host and his career and businesses, putting her in a better position to oversee the estate because she has “the most knowledge of Larry’s businesses, assets and wishes.”
  • King’s widow also contends in her objection that Larry King Jr. has a conflict of interest because he is indebted to the estate for $266,261 paid to him by his father from a “secret account” that Shawn King says she only learned of recently.

These are textbook ways to contest a will. Whether King had the capacity to make a will at the time he did so, and whether he may have been improperly influenced will be key to determining the will’s validity. The Palmer & Slay team has made similar arguments in cases where our clients needed to challenge an estate planning document. We have also defended plans against such challenges. 

If you are interested in challenging an estate plan or have faced threats of a challenge, the experienced attorneys on our team may be able to help. Contact Palmer & Slay today to schedule an initial consultation.