On January 23, 2021, legendary talk show host Larry King passed away. Larry left behind a holographic (handwritten) will that was barely legible in certain parts, causing familial disputes over the ownership of some of his belongings. Currently, Larry’s wife Shawn and son Larry King Jr. are in court over the distribution of Larry’s estate. Shawn King argues that she was listed as the executor of the $2 million estate in an earlier will from 2015. The latest will, being the holographic one, states that the estate should be divided up between his children. This disagreement over the will has created a deep rift in the King family.
A will is crucial for achieving the final wishes of a deceased person. This document states who should inherit specific belongings and property, so it is important for a will to be straightforward and legible. Although some people resort to writing holographic wills, many problems can arise regarding the legibility of these handwritten wills. Most wills are typed up and kept in a safe location until the person passes away.
Common Difficulties with Handwritten Wills
Holographic wills usually go through a more complex probate process than normal wills. For instance, the authenticity of a handwritten document may be called into question. Many holographic wills do not have witnesses to their creation, giving no proof that the testator wrote it. Legibility is another common issue with holographic wills. If these issues cause disagreement among potential heirs, a hearing in court will decide the distribution of the assets and belongings.
Holographic Wills in Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia
In Washington DC, holographic wills are valid. If there are questions over the legibility of the will, the document goes through further proceedings in the District of Columbia Laws of Intestacy. Afterward, the will can enter multiple probate proceedings to authenticate the document and finalize the settlements. Finally, if parties cannot reach an agreement over the assets, the will can go to a hearing in court.
In Virginia, a holographic will is also valid if it is signed by the person who wrote it. The will does not need to have witnesses to its signing, but there must be people who can testify that the document is written in the person’s handwriting.
In Maryland, wills must comply with specific laws. Unless a holographic will is written properly, the court may find it invalid. When the court finds a will to be invalid, the Maryland laws of intestacy serve as default rules for distribution of the decedent’s estates.
Speak to an Attorney to Avoid Issues with Holographic Wills
The distribution of a loved one’s assets and property after their passing can be an emotional time. Confusion over the contents of a will can cause division in the family and create more stress in an already difficult situation.
If you are dealing with asset distribution based on a handwritten will, or if you wish to create a legally enforceable plan for your property, call an experienced lawyer. Legal guidance is often key to avoiding common issues with wills and protecting the future of your loved ones.