News anchor Larry King’s last will was much like his interviews that the world has come to love – direct, short and to the point. However, unlike his interviews, his Estate planning would probably not have been received with as much love, especially from his family members, or his legal team.
With a net worth of $50M, King allegedly penned a Will on 17 October 2019. The hand-written Will simply 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, Larry Jr, Chance & Cannon.”
This was particularly interesting because it was written just two months after he filed a divorce from his seventh wife of 24 years, Shawn Southwick King, and in the middle of a prolonged and complex divorce settlement that was never finalised before his death.
King’s family dynamics were anything but simple, and if anyone needed a well-strategized Estate plan for a blended family, this case would take the cake!
Larry King’s personal Estate is estimated at $2M. Although most of his wealth would have been locked up in other asset holding structures, $2M is still a significant amount, and the hand-written Will that Larry has made will be the source of many questions and may cause legal headache for his loved ones.
I don’t profess to know American Estate laws, but had Larry been a South Australian, or had assets in our beautiful state, his Estate will face the following issues:
1. Proofing a Hand-written Will
There are many risks associated with a hand-written Will.
Was it properly witnessed? Was it witnessed at all? Did the will maker have capacity at the time of writing the document?
There are no doubts that the living children of Larry, or even potentially the children of Andy and Chaia (who predeceased Larry) would have to provide copious amount of evidence to prove that the document truly is Larry’s Last Will.
You can refer to our blog post The risks of using DIY Will Kits for more information.
2. No Executor
Even if it is accepted on evidence that the hand-written piece of document is Larry’s last Will, dear Larry has left out an important part of his Will – the appointment of an executor and trustee of his Estate!
Instead of having the choice of appointing someone whom he trusts to administer the Estate, it is now up to the Court to appoint someone to administer his Estate. In a time that’s already filled with grief, this create more tension amongst the family members, especially when dealing with large Estates.
In South Australia, the executor would be one of the named beneficiaries in the Will.
3. The children that predeceased him
At the time of penning his Will, I doubt that Larry would have imagined having to experience the death of two of his children the year after. However, after the death of those children, he did not appear to have made a new Will. The question now is whether or not the family of Andy and Chaia are entitled to anything from Larry’s Estate.
In South Australia, if Andy and Chaia had children, the Estate of Andy and Chaia can expect to receive the proportion from Larry’s Estate that Andy or Chaia would have otherwise been entitled to from Larry’s Estate.
4. “My Funds” – What does this mean?
The administrators of Larry’s Will might have to scratch their heads as to whether what “funds” mean.
Does it mean money in a bank account? Investment funds? Does it include any real Estate that Larry owns?
If it is uncertain as to what "funds" means, and it is likely that the administrators would need to seek advice from the Court as to what the proper construction of the word “funds” means.
If the word “funds” does not encompass the entirety of Larry’s Estate, the remaining part of his Estate could fall into, what is called, 'intestacy,' whereby the distribution of an intestate Estate is governed by legislative provision.
You can read more information on intestacy in this article What happens if you die without a Will?
5. What about the wife who has been left without an inheritance?
As the divorce proceedings are not yet finalised, not all is lost for Shawn.
If Shawn had not issued proceedings for a matrimonial property settlement, in South Australia she could issue a claim under the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act. The Act allows for spouse and ex-spouse to claim against Larry’s Estate.
You can read more about challenging a Will in our blog post How do I challenge a Will in South Australia?
All that being said, watching the resolution of King’s Estate unfold in the coming months will serve as an important reminder that seeking professional advice on Estate planning is of the utmost importance, as DIY jobs can often create significant problems for those administering the Estate.
Having a solid Estate planning strategy that is suited to your circumstance will make the administration process significantly easier, and is something that should be reviewed when life changes happen.