Larry King’s widow Shawn Southwick King is reportedly contesting the television icon’s handwritten will that leaves her with nothing and gives everything to his surviving children.
King, 87, died in Los Angeles on January 23 after he was hospitalized for COVID-19 in December. His widow confirmed to Entertainment Tonight that he died from a sepsis infection “unrelated” to his COVID-19 diagnosis.
The broadcasting legend was famously married eight times to seven different women. Shawn, 61, was his seventh wife. Larry had reportedly filed to divorce her at the time of his death, but the divorce was never finalized.
Shawn claims in new legal documents that her late husband no longer pushed their divorce case and reconciliation was possible before his death. She is challenging the validity of the will and said King was “of questionable mental capacity” when he signed the handwritten will, press sources indicate.
“Larry was not pushing the divorce and was generally nonresponsive and refused to participate in the divorce proceeding. He gave no indication that he actually wanted to pursue divorce,” court documents state. “After the filing, the parties had gone to counseling, were still speaking, and reconciliation remained possible until Larry’s health conditions made that impractical.”
Does Shawn have a leg to stand on? Let’s take a look at the legality of contesting a will in California.
What Exactly Does Larry King’s New Will Say?
Larry’s handwritten will is dated October 17, 2019—two months after he filed for divorce from Shawn after almost 22 years of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences.
“This is my Last Will & Testament,” it states, according to People Magazine. “It should replace all previous writings. In the event of my death, any day after the above date I want 100% [placed above illegible cross-out] of my funds to be divided equally among my children Andy, Chaia, Larry Jr., Chance & Cannon.”
Two of King’s children, Chaia and Andy, tragically died within weeks of one another in the summer of 2020. That means only three of his children are now entitled to his estate: Larry Jr., 59, and Chance, 21, and Cannon, 20, who he had with Shawn.
According to the new will, Larry’s estate is worth about $2 million—a sliver of his rumored $50+ million fortune. News sources speculate much of his money is likely held in separate trusts. Larry Jr. has reportedly asked to be appointed a special administrator of the family estate plan, noting his dad was in the middle of divorce proceedings when he died.
In the documents contesting the will, Shawn claims Larry didn’t even know about Jr. until his son was well into his 30s. She asks to be named a special administrator in his place because she has the most knowledge about Larry’s assets, businesses, and wishes. She argues the new will contradicts the one he signed in 2015, which named her executor of his estate. A hearing about the contest is scheduled later this month at Los Angeles County probate court.
Can Shawn Southwick Legally Contest King’s Will?
Technically, yes. A spouse has the right to contest a will in California based on the circumstances it was created or executed. Under California law, only interested parties can contest a will. That means people who would have benefited from an earlier will or heirs who are not in the current will. Here are some reasons why a will may be contested:
- Lack of testamentary capacity – Challenging the mental state of the deceased when the will was made. This is the reason Shawn is using to contest Larry’s handwritten will.
- Undue influence – Claiming that there was improper influence from a third party when the will was drafted.
- Fraud – Claiming there was fraud when the will was made.
- Mistake – Challenging the will by claiming there was a mistake made when it was drafted that makes it invalid.
- Duress – Claiming the deceased was unlawfully detained or confined when making the will.
- Revocation – Claiming the will was voided or canceled out by a will that was written later.
A person contesting a will can file an objection to stop the probate process. The heirs of the deceased, people named in the will, and the executor will then have 30 days to respond. If they don’t respond, the case will move ahead without them. During the hearing, Shawn will have to provide evidence proving the grounds on which the contest is based. At the end of the hearing, a judge may accept or reject part or all of the contested will.
Note that California is a community property state, which means a spouse can’t give away all property acquired after marriage and leave the other spouse with nothing. Spouses have 50/50 rights to community property. If a spouse in a community property state tries to disinherit a spouse, the spouse may still get their community property shared by law.
Do You Want to Prepare a Valid Will in California?
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