Larry King’s handwritten Will is being contested by his wife from whom he was seeking a divorce.
The California Estate is valued at $2 million and while the assets will eventually be distributed among several family members, Larry King’s wife has allegedly stated that “It’s the principle of the matter." (Vanity Fair, February 16, 2021)
In a Texas Will Contest, or a will contest in any state, the contestant of a will often says that it’s not about the money ‘it’s the principle of the matter’. In realty, the contest is often much more about the money than contesting what’s right or wrong. In some rare Will Contests, the contestant will actually donate any recovery to charity – but again, that’s a rare occurrence.
Larry King’s handwritten will that is being contested was made at a time when he was very old, allegedly had mental capacity issues, and was possibly the victim of undue influence.
"During the last few years of his life, Larry was highly susceptible to outside influences and at the time he purportedly executed the (handwritten will) was of questionable mental capacity, having recently suffered a stroke and about to undergo a medical procedure (and possibly already under the influence of pre-operative medication)," the court papers say. (USA Today, February 16th and 17th, 2021)
In a Will contest for undue influence, the elements of undue influence must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. The contestant must prove three elements:
1) the existence and exertion of an influence;
2) the effective operation of such influence to subvert or overpower the mind of the testator at the time of the will's execution; and
3) that the testator executed a will that he or she would not have executed but for the undue influence.
In a Will Contest, alleging lack of testamentary capacity, the contestant must prove that the testator (person who signed the will) was not of "sound mind". There is no specific standard to establish “sound mind”. The Texas Supreme Court has held that the testator has testamentary capacity if he or she has sufficient mental ability at the time a last will and testament is executed to:
- Understand the business in which he or she is engaged, specifically the making of a will;
- Understand the effect of the testator’s act in making a will;
- Understand the general nature and extent of the testator’s property;
- Know the testator’s next of kin, the natural objects of the testator’s bounty, and the claims upon the testator; and
- Collect in the testator’s mind the elements of the business to be transacted and hold them long enough to perceive their obvious relation to each other and to form a reasonable judgment as to them.
There is a presumption that the testator possessed the necessary capacity at the time the will was signed. If the above referenced test criteria are not satisfied, the Will can be found to be invalid.
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