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    12 March 2021

    Widow Contests Handwritten Will

    Larry King’s Widow, Shawn Southwick King, set to contest handwritten will leaving his estate to his children.

    Earlier this year, news spread that the American TV legend, Larry King, had sadly passed away aged 87. Two years before his death, he amended an official document detailing how he wanted his assets to be divided upon his death. According to the 2019 document, Larry wanted “100% of my funds to be divided equally” between his five children. Sadly, two of his children passed away in 2020.

    Larry and Shawn had been in the process of divorcing but this had not been finalised at the time of Larry’s death. Shawn now intends to contest the handwritten Will which purportedly leaves Larry’s $2 million estate to his children. Shawn argues Larry’s “questionable mental capacity” when he signed the Will in October 2019; two months after he had filed for divorce. She says he had recently suffered a stroke, was about to undergo a medical procedure and could have already been under the influence of pre-operative medication.

    Larry had a large family having been married eight times to seven women and had five children, each of whom are named in the handwritten Will. A truly blended family! Larry was survived by his two children with Shawn, Cannon and Chance and Larry King Jr, a son from a previous relationship. Shawn alleges Larry King Jr, her stepson, exerted undue influence over his father towards the end of his life and was susceptible to “outside influence”. There even seems to be a suggestion that Larry may not have been aware that he was signing a Will.

    Shawn says that after Larry filed for divorce, they remained in contact and became close again. She says he was not planning to go through with the divorce. This is disputed by Larry King Jr who says that they were no longer together at the time of his father’s death.

    Shawn is asking that the 2015 Will is recognised as the valid Will, which appoints her as executor of the estate.

    The first hearing was scheduled at Los Angeles County Probate Court at the end of last month. It is unclear what the outcome of that hearing was and we will wait in anticipation for this. If Shawn continues to pursue her claim, it is likely to be one of many hearings in this case.

    It is worth pointing out that the situation with Larry’s Will is based in the United States and will be governed by the law applicable in Los Angeles and so the rules may vary to UK Law. However, if the same situation were to play out in England and Wales, it appears Shawn would be claiming the Will is invalid on the following grounds:

    1. Lack of testamentary capacity;
    2. Want of knowledge and approval (i.e., Larry did not know the contents of the Will and approve them);
    3. Undue influence.

    These are common challenges to a Will but they can be tricky to prove. The law is complex in relation to each of these grounds and it is important to seek legal advice early on if you are concerned about the validity of a Will. We are experienced in dealing with cases both challenging and defending claims against Wills and can discuss your situation and options, moving forwards, to enable you to make an informed decision.

    You can find further information about these grounds on our dedicated Contested Probate page.

    Our Steeles Contested Probate specialists offer an initial agreed fee consultation to discuss your situation and your options moving forwards. If you have concerns about the validity of a will or would like to discuss any of the topics raised in this article, please call Emerald on 01603 598000 or email epriscott@steeleslaw.co.uk.

    *The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

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