Did Larry King have an Estate Plan?

Long Island Elder Law and Estate Planning Lawyers

Retirement can be a bigger drag on the assets than all the professional and romantic mistakes put together.
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Larry King’s health was not good in the last few years of his life which ended last week. He was 87, had a history of heart trouble, suffered a stroke and then he became ill with the coronavirus. He was also paying spousal support as part of a lengthy divorce negotiation.  Unfortunately, his estate plan is heading towards a court battle which will likely take years to resolve and erode the value of his estate.

His wife, Shawn, was his seventh wife.  Since the divorce wasn’t final, she may inherit much of his estimated $50 million estate, says Wealth Advisor’s recent article entitled “Two Bankruptcies, Seven Wives: Larry King’s Estate Planning Miracle.  

That will not be true, however, if Larry King’s handwritten 2019 Will is accepted by the court.  That document excluded Shawn as a beneficiary while leaving the entire estate to King’s children.  Shawn filed court papers this week to challenge the 2019 Will.

The King of Talk wasn’t an early success. He was bankrupt before he was 30 and filed again at 45, when many successful people start eying early retirement. However, Larry had large gambling debts, grand larceny charges for defrauding a business partner and many professional setbacks.

By the time he became a household name on CNN, he had already had five divorces to four women as well as one annulment.

Under normal circumstances, this would mean depleted bank accounts, since the households multiplied, and income continued to be split among his ex-wives. However, King continued to work, and while each bankruptcy reset his official net worth to zero, every contract negotiation kept the income flowing.

If the divorce were a done deal, Shawn would have gotten a lump sum payment and $300,000 in annual support. Shawn had argued that she needed $1 million a year to live, but she could inherit all $50 million if her challenge to the 2019 Will is successful.

Shawn listed $7 million in assets in her own name, including a house in Utah. That’s usually a good start to a divorce settlement division of property, but she wanted more because Larry was still working. In fact, only last year, he signed a trial podcast deal worth at least $5 million.

Larrry King’s 2019 Will appears to be a “homemade” job.  In New York, a Will executed under the supervision of an attorney receives a presumption of due execution.  It is presumed that attorneys know, and do satisfy, the strict statutory formalities which must be followed for a court to consider a Will valid.  The attorneys at Kurre Schneps LLP have drafted thousands of Will and can guide you on putting a valid Will in place.   By trying to put a new Will in place without the benefit of an attorney, Mr. King’s estate plan, and more specifically his 2019 Will, is vulnerable to Shawn’s legal challenge.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (Jan. 25, 2021) “Two Bankruptcies, Seven Wives: Larry King’s Estate Planning Miracle”


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