Estate Lawyer News

Larry King’s Secret Last Will and Testament: some unintended consequences of impulsive changes to estate plans

Wills | 4 May 2021 | Marc Misner

This is Part 3 of my reflections on renowned interviewer Larry King’s secret Will that was revealed shortly after his death on January 23, 2021.  See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Larry King's handwritten will

Impulsive estate changes make estate litigation a certainty

If the news reports are accurate, Larry and Shawn King made estate plans together in 2015.  In 2019 (assuming the secret Will is authentic) Larry King attempted to change all of that careful planning in what can only be seen as the impulsive act of handwriting a new estate plan that left his spouse of 22 years out of the estate.  Predictably, Shawn King is suing the estate.

Litigation damages relationships – sometimes permanently

The secret Will was submitted for court approval (called ‘probate’) by Larry King’s eldest son Larry King jr.  Shawn is therefore suing her step-son.  Litigation – especially estate litigation – gets intensely personal.  Members of the same family sue each other.  Because they are family, these litigation opponents know very personal and sensitive information about the other.  In the heat of the litigation, that knowledge is often weaponised to hurt and to shame.  These kinds of tactics are intensely painful, cause outrage, and encourage retaliation.  Retaliation causes an escalation in the seriousness of the accusations each side makes against the other.  Soon the lawsuit devolves into an excuse for revenge against real or perceived wrongs.

This back and forth often leaves relationships in tatters and permanently damaged.

A large portion of the estate ends up going to the lawyers

If Larry King had approached his estate changes in 2019 as carefully as he did the 2015 estate plan (i.e. by consulting professionals to provide advice and to draft a new Will), he would likely have saved his estate a significant amount of money and his children considerable time and stress.  Money that would otherwise have gone to his children will now be spent on legal fees.

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