Larry King was a mainstay on American television and an iconic radio host whose accolades included an Emmy, two Peabodys, and numerous cable awards. His notoriety will likely remain for years to come due to his celebrity status, his various marriages, and broadcasting firsts, including the talk show that bore his name. However, the legacy of Larry King may shift as the conversations regarding his estate are taking the limelight. The estate implications we are learning are invaluable and Sinclair Prosser Gasior will help you understand how to avoid these issues.
King died on January 21, 2021 at the age of 87, and his family quickly entered the courts. At his death, King had five children and was married to his seventh wife, Shawn Southwick King. They were separated and in the process of obtaining a divorce. King left a handwritten will, known as a holographic will, drafted in 2019 to distribute his assets, which apparently was done in an effort to simplify matters. However, the document has only proved to complicate the process as Shawn has filed objections. The 2019 will revokes King’s prior will from 2015, and the major difference is that the latter Will disinherits his wife and leaves the entire estate to his five children. Shawn objected to the will on grounds that King lacked the capacity to execute the will, that King may have been unduly influenced, and the will conflicts with the terms of marital agreements between the couple.
Although this battle is far from over, it already reflects why it is paramount to work with an experienced attorney and the need for strong legal documents. Here are some of the key takeaways and lessons we can learn:
- First, holographic wills may or may not be valid, depending on state law. For example, in Maryland, a holographic will is valid only if the testator is serving in the armed forces of the United States, and that it is signed by the testator outside of the United States or its territories, or the District of Columbia. Also, there are time limits of when it becomes void.
- Second, family members have certain rights to an estate in terms of what they receive and their rights to caveat the estate. For example, in Maryland, a surviving spouse maintains the right to elect against an estate, and has even more protections with augmented estate laws. Therefore, simply because you put it on paper does not mean that it will go according to plan.
- Third, working with an attorney to draft legal documents to effectuate your wishes is essential. The interpretation by a court or jury may differ than your stated intentions, and an attorney will craft your plan to carry out your wishes. Otherwise, it could sour family relations, result in costly litigation and taxes, and a prolonged administration process.
The legacy of Larry King continues through his estate plan as a lesson for all of us to create sound documents and to engage legal counsel. Sinclair Prosser Gasior will help you maintain a peace-of-mind plan for your family and to protect your legacy.