Larry King’s handwritten Will has been challenged by his wife, from whom he is seeking a divorce.
The California estate is valued at $2 million, and while the assets will eventually be distributed to several family members, Larry King’s wife claimed “that’s the principle of the matter.” (Vanity Fair, February 16, 2021)
In the Texas Will contest, or any state’s will contest, the will contestant often says it’s not about the money “it’s the principle of the matter.” In fact, the contest is often more about money than a contest between right and wrong. In some rare will contests, the contestant will actually donate any compensation to charity – but again, this is rare.
Larry King’s handwritten will that is being challenged came at a time when he was very old, allegedly had mental problems, and may have been the victim of undue influence.
“During the last few years of his life Larry was extremely vulnerable to outside influences and at the time he allegedly executed (the handwritten will) was of questionable mental ability, having recently suffered a stroke and about to undergo a medical procedure (and possibly under the influence of medications). pre-surgery,” says court papers. (USA Today, Feb. 16NS and 17NS, 2021)
In a probate dispute over undue influence, the elements of undue influence must be established by the preponderance of evidence. The contestant must prove three elements:
1) the presence and exercise of influence;
2) the effective action of such influence to subvert or control the mind of the testator at the time of the execution of the will; And
3) that the testator carried out a will that he would not have executed had it not been for undue influence.
In a will contest, claiming no will, the contestant must prove that the testator (the person who signed the will) was not of “sound mind”. There is no set standard for establishing a “sound mind”. The Texas Supreme Court has held that a testator has probate capacity if he or she has sufficient mental capacity at the time of the last will and will to:
- Understand the work in which he is involved, specifically will-making;
- Understand the effect of the testator’s act on the act of the will;
- Understand the general nature and extent of the testator’s property;
- Knowing the testator’s closest relatives and the natural things in the testator’s virtue and the testator’s claims. And
- Collect in the testator’s mind the elements of the business to be dealt with and keep them long enough to realize their clear relationship to each other and form a reasonable judgment about them.
There is an assumption that the testator had the necessary capacity at the time of signing the will. If the test criteria indicated above are not met, the will may be found to be invalid.
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