“This is my last will and testament. It should replace all previous writings.” So reads the document radio/TV host Larry King executed two months after filing for divorce from his seventh wife, bequeathing his $2 million estate equally to his children. This handwritten will was dated October 2019. Between that date and King’s own passing on January 23 of this year, two of king’s children died.
Larry King was executing what is called a holographic will, one written in the testator’s own handwriting and not signed by any witnesses. The state of Indiana does not recognize holographic wills. While certain other states do allow for handwritten wills, many probate courts are hesitant to recognize their validity, since they are difficult to verify.
The Indiana Code outlines the following specifications for legal wills:
1. Any person of sound mind over age 18 (or younger and a member of the armed forces) can make a will.
2. The will must be signed and acknowledged in the presence of two or more witnesses who sign in the presence of the testator (the person making the will) and of each other.
Even were holographic wills legal in the state of Indiana, at Geyer Law, we would recommend that wills be witnessed to help avoid any possible after-death challenges by heirs. Although handwritten wills were, in fact, legal in Larry King’s state of residence, with property valued at more than $2 million and a divorce settlement not yet complete, it would have been (we might suggest) the better part of wisdom to execute a printed, witnessed document.
The most important part of the Larry King story, we believe, is that, between the day King created
that holographic will and the date of his own death, several crucially important changes had taken
place in his situation. Divorce estate planning is an essential part of getting divorced, and King obviously
realized the need to change the plan so that his children would inherit as opposed to his soon-to-be
ex-wife. However, there is no record of the will being changed after the death of two of his children.
When you – or any your heirs-to-be experience a significant life event, we recommend adjusting your estate plan in recognition of those changed circumstances. Even without any significant changes, your plan should be re-evaluated every three to five years to make sure it is consistent with your goals and concerns.
– by Rebecca W. Geyer