Even if someone passes away with a will in place, a dispute can still arise between surviving beneficiaries regarding the decedent’s estate. Talk-show host Larry King recently passed away and left behind a handwritten will written in October 2019 stating that he wished for his estate to be equally divided between his five children. This new will, which King said was intended to ‘replace all previous writings,’ was reportedly signed by King and witnessed by two other people.
Larry King Jr., son of Larry King, has sought to administer King’s $2 million estate in Los Angeles Superior Court. However, Shawn King, Larry’s wife of 22 years, seeks to be the appointed executor of the will, contending that the 2019 will should not take precedence. She says that the handwritten will would violate two post-nuptial agreements between her and King and that King may not have had the capacity required to change his will in 2019 due to health complications.
King Jr. alleges he has priority over Shawn, as Shawn and King were going through a divorce when King passed away and no longer lived together. Shawn however says that King was refusing to go along with the divorce and that reconciliation was a possibility until his health took a turn for the worse. Shawn also said she had a closer relationship with King than King Jr. did, as King Jr. was never involved in King’s career. Shawn contends that King paid King Jr. from a secret account, therefore causing a conflict of interest for King Jr.
Under California law, handwritten wills, or holographic wills, are valid, as long as:
- The will is in the testator’s own handwriting.
- The will is dated and signed by the testator.
- The testator was at least 18 years of age.
- The testator had testamentary capacity and had testamentary intent that the document would be their last will.
A holographic will does not require witnesses or notarization. Holographic wills can be problematic due to illegibility, ambiguity, and other issues. If you find that your loved one has left behind a holographic will, it may be in your best interest to contact an estate planning attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can make sure all beneficiaries respect the intentions of the deceased.