When broadcaster Larry King died in January 2021, he was estranged from his seventh wife, Shawn King. He filed for divorce to end their marriage in August 2019. Apparently, unbeknownst to Shawn, Larry created a handwritten amendment to his Will just two months later, in October 2019. That amendment changed the couple’s existing estate plan, drawn up in 2015, leaving nothing to Shawn and instead leaving the $2 million estate to Larry King’s five children – two of whom died in 2020.
Shawn King has indicated she intends to contest the October 2019 amendment as being invalid, claiming that someone improperly influenced her estranged husband to create it. Shawn King stated that she and Larry had reconciled and become close again after the divorce filing and that neither she nor the couple’s two sons, Cannon and Chance, knew anything about the amendment. Shawn has indicated she is fighting only for a sliver of the estate, not for the money itself but for the principle.
Under California law, if you write a Will leaving assets to your spouse, subsequently divorce, and die before updating your Will, the law treats your former spouse as if they predeceased you. If you die while your divorce is pending, as was the case with Larry and Shawn King’s divorce action, California’s community property laws come into play, potentially complicating matters for any marital property you owned together – although you can bequeath your own separate property to anyone you like by creating a new Will. Separate property typically includes assets you brought into the marriage, as well as those you received by gift or through an inheritance.
While specific details about the makeup of Larry King’s assets have not yet been made public, it is reasonable to think he had significant separate property that he would have legally been free to leave to whomever he wanted.
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