There have been two interesting estate-related stories in the news this week.
Larry King’s Widow Contests his Will
First, the widow of TV host Larry King has gone to court to contest a handwritten will that purportedly leaves Mr. King’s$2 Million estate to his five children. She alleges that one of his children exerted undue influence on him, that he was “of questionable mental capacity” when the will was signed, and that he made a previous will in 2015 in which she was named executor.
Larry King had filed for divorce in 2019, but his widow claims that he was not actually pursing the divorce, and in fact they were working toward a possible reconciliation.
If this case arose in British Columbia, Mr. King’s widow would have various remedies, some of which would depend upon whether she was a “spouse” at his death. She could argue that the will was invalid as a result of undue influence or lack of capacity. If the handwritten will was valid, then she could seek to vary the will to make provision for her only if she was Mr. King’s spouse at the date of death. The separation may have terminated her standing as a “spouse”. However, if they began to live together again for at least 90 days and the primary purpose for doing so was to reconcile, then she would have regained her standing as “spouse” and could seek to vary the will. If she was not a “spouse” at death, then she could bring a family law claim against Mr. King’s estate (or continue the divorce proceedings that were ongoing at his death).
Dog Inherits $5 Million
A businessman in Nashville who died last year stipulated in his will that upon his death his assets, worth an estimated $5 Million, would be transferred into a trust for the benefit of his 8-year-old border collie, Lulu. The will names a friend as Lulu’s official caretaker, and the funds are to be used to pay Lulu’s reasonable expenses. It is unclear who will receive the remaining monies upon Lulu’s death.
In British Columbia, will-makers have the autonomy to distribute their estate by will as they see fit. If they want to make an “unconventional” bequest or provision in a will, then that is their choice to make. However, there are potential avenues to challenge such a bequest. There may be a challenge to the validity of the will, on the basis that the will-maker lacked capacity, did not understand what they were doing, or was unduly influenced. A child or spouse (if there is one) may also bring a claim to vary the will on the basis that it does not make adequate provision for them.