It’s no exaggeration to say “Larry King” is a household name. King was an enduring on-air personality known for his celebrity interviews and topical discussions. The 87-year-old nationally syndicated radio host was a nightly fixture on CNN, where he conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews from 1985 through 2010.
King had an illustrious career interviewing movie stars, musicians, authors, and world leaders. His conversational interview style and reputation for asking friendly questions made him attractive to important figures who wanted to share their position without being challenged on contentious topics. His achievements earned him an Emmy, two Peabodys, and ten Cable ACE Awards among other accolades.
King’s health had been waning for a few years before he was hospitalized in late December for COVID-19, so news of his death on January 23 was not exactly surprising. That, coupled with his history of medical complications including a heart attack and a stroke, led to speculation that he may have died from complications caused by the coronavirus. However, his estranged wife Shawn King recently spoke up and confirmed that her late husband had actually died of sepsis after he managed to beat COVID-19.
As the country mourns King, a question on a lot of people’s minds now is how Larry King’s surviving loved ones will divide up his fortune, which is estimated to be upwards of $50 million. King was famously married seven times and had five children. Shawn King, who he married in 1997 and had two sons with, was his final wife. Though King had filed to divorce Shawn in 2019, their divorce was never finalized. That means Shawn, who was reportedly asking for a minimal lump sum payment and $300,000 in annual support in the divorce settlement, may be inheriting all of his wealth.
Let’s take a look at how California probate would work in this unique scenario. And while you may not have a fortune to rival Larry King’s, this may also be a good time to consider how you can lay out an estate plan.
Dividing Larry King’s $50 Million Fortune
King was married eight times to seven different women. In addition to his sons with Shawn, the broadcast legend had three other children. Two of them, Chaia and Andy King, died last year.
King announced his decision to divorce Shawn in 2018 after more than two decades of marriage. Shawn reportedly learned her late husband wanted to end their 22-year marriage from a journalist. After the radio announcer’s filing, reports cropped up about possible reasons for their split. Shawn King denied that their two sons–Cannon, 19, and Chance, 20–pushed their father to file, according to sources. She also publicly scoffed at reports that she was attempting to get at their inheritance.
With such a complicated nuptial history, there’s a chance King’s estate plan is unsettled. If his surviving ex-wives aren’t named in the will, they and their children could get passed over. There is also King’s back catalog of interviews which could be monetized in the future, but it is unclear if he or his media employers owned the rights to his intellectual property.
With such a large fortune at stake, much depends on King’s will, which could prevent his loved ones from having to deal with California’s probate court. However, this often isn’t the case for the average person. Many people don’t have a will at all, and if they suddenly pass away, dividing their estate becomes stressful and complicated.
When California Inheritance Laws Apply
When a person who lives in California dies without a will, their property and estate is distributed according to inheritance laws found in Division 6 of the California Probate Code. California intestate succession laws determine who gets what when you die based on whether it is community property or separate property.
Community vs. Separate Property Distribution
Property purchased or acquired during a marriage is considered joint or community property, even if it is only under the name of one of the parties. Assets you acquired or owned before you got married are separate property (this includes gifts and inheritances you receive when you are married). If you die in California without a will, the state distributes your property as follows:
- You are married with no children and your parents are alive –Your spouse inherits all of your joint property. Your spouse and parents will proportionally split your separate property.
- You have children but are not married – Your children will inherit all of your assets proportionately. For example, if you have three living children, each would inherit a third share of your estate.
- You are married and have children – Your spouse inherits all of your joint property. The separate property will be divided equally between your spouse and children.
- You have no children, spouse, or siblings, but your parents are alive – Your parents will receive all your assets.
- You have living siblings but no children or spouse – Your surviving siblings will inherit all your assets proportionately.
- You are married and have living siblings, but no children or living parents – Your spouse inherits all of your community property and splits your separate property with your siblings.
California inheritance laws do not provide rights of inheritance for stepchildren. If the deceased has no surviving heirs, his/her property will escheat to the state.
Avoiding Inheritance Issues in California Probate Court
If you want to save your family the stress of dealing with probate court after your death, have a will drafted to ensure your assets are passed down automatically. A People’s Choice can help you draft your estate planning documents, complete and file your will, trust, or other legal forms at a fraction of the cost of an attorney. Contact us today and let us help you so you can rest easy knowing your loved ones will have one less thing to worry about in the event of your untimely death.
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