A short time before his death, Larry King attempted to update his estate plan without the assistance of an attorney. The handwritten last will and testament is now being challenged in a lawsuit filed by his estranged wife. The parties will probably spend a small fortune arguing over a few rough sentences that will decide who ends up with potentially millions of dollars. This unfortunate situation serves as a reminder of several reasons that drafting your own last will and testament is probably a bad idea.
- Bad Planning. Even if King knew how to draft a last will and testament, it would not change the fact that a last will and testament was likely the wrong instrument to use for his planning. A properly drafted revocable trust likely would have legally disinherited the wife (in the midst of their divorce) and kept his estate completely private.
- Invalid Will. A last will and testament is more than just a written statement of what you want to happen when you die. It is a legal instrument that must conform with legal requirements. Many people think that a few sentences of wishes can be signed and it will work. That is not the case under Ohio law. Another common misconception is that a notary can make a will valid. This is NOT true. A will is not notarized under Ohio law.
- Capacity and Influence Questions. The two primary methods of challenging a legal last will and testament are 1) a lack of mental capacity, and 2) improper influence by another person. When an attorney drafts your estate plan, there is a process that confirms you are making your own decisions and you are capable of doing so. When you draft your own documents, there is a much greater chance of those issues being raised. There is no legal professional to confirm that safeguards were in place.
It is too early to know if King’s homemade will is going to stand up to the challenge. However, it is already clear that the parties will spend significant resources in the fight.
A last will and testament is an inexpensive but powerful estate planning tool. Contact us for a free estate planning consultation and start the process of creating an estate plan that will avoid the questions and fights the King family is now facing.