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Could a Prenup Have Protected Larry King’s Widow?

TV legend Larry King’s death in January shocked the television industry and much of the country. King made his name by running his eponymous show, Larry King Live, for 25 years from 1985 to 2010. After leaving CNN, he retained a high profile by running his own podcast.

King’s death, however, happened amid the divorce proceedings from his wife of 22 years, Shawn Southwick King. What’s more, Larry King apparently created a handwritten will, which according to media reports, Mrs. King is now challenging in court.

Interestingly, Mrs. King could have protected herself by signing a prenuptial agreement before getting married. Most people envision that prenup agreements protect only the richer spouse, which in this case would be Larry. But even the less wealthy spouse can gain key rights in a prenuptial agreement, which is enforceable in the event of divorce or death.

At Lawrence Law, we fully understand the value of prenuptial agreements, and we encourage you to reach out to learn more.

Larry King’s Handwritten Will

Despite being married to Southwick King for over two decades, Larry King apparently drafted a handwritten will two months after filing for divorce from his wife. In the will, he left his estate in equal shares to his five children, two of whom died tragically after the will was drafted. He left nothing to his wife.

In 2010, King had filed for divorce from his wife before retracting the documents. In 2019, he filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences, and the case was winding its way through court when he died from COVID-19 complications.

Couples Can Agree to an Inheritance

Before a couple marries, they can sign an agreement between the two of them outlining their rights and responsibilities during marriage. The document can also explain what will happen to property in the event the couple divorces or one of them dies.

Prenuptial agreements are contracts, and they must be drafted a certain way to be legal. A couple should make full disclosure of their financial assets and give each enough time to review the agreement with their own attorney. In no situation should the prenup be procured with intimidation, force, misrepresentation, coercion, or duress.

However, when properly drafted and negotiated, prenuptial agreements are binding—just like any other contract. This is true even if a subsequently signed will conflicts with the prenuptial agreement. For example, a couple could agree that each spouse will receive 100% of the estate if the other dies. If the husband later tries to leave his wife only 30% of the estate via will, the prenuptial agreement should win. Had Mrs. King signed a prenuptial agreement, she could have possibly protected her right to an inheritance after Larry’s death.

Of course, everything depends on what the couple agrees to. It is possible as a spouse to agree not to accept anything at all in the event of divorce and/or death, in which case the prenup will still be binding.

Unfortunately, Shawn Southwick King did not sign a prenup before marrying Larry. This fact came out in the media in 2010 when the couple first went to divorce court. In some states, a couple can sign a postnuptial agreement that will do everything a prenup will, but Ohio generally prohibits this.

Prenups Can Also Impair Inheritance Rights

As mentioned above, a prenup is a binding agreement, and you can give up rights when signing one. For example, this is true of alimony, which one or both spouses could waive. A spouse in Ohio can also waive their right to an elective share. Under Ohio Revised Code § 2106, a spouse who is disinherited or left a small amount can receive a certain percentage of their spouse’s estate regardless of what is written in the will.

Mrs. King didn’t have an option for an elective share, which is not provided for in California. But Ohio does provide for this option.

If you are getting married, the last thing you want to do is impair your inheritance rights. For this reason, please meet an attorney before signing anything. It might be possible to negotiate a compromise where you give up the right to an elective share but still guarantee a certain amount of property in the event your spouse passes.

Contact Our Ohio Prenup Attorney for More

Prenups provide peace of mind. Having signed one, you do not need to fear being disinherited from your spouse who might later go behind your back and create a will. Please contact Lawrence Law Office today to schedule a meeting. 

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