How many times does a bankruptcy court decide a probate issue? The answer probably is never…unless it has to do with Anna Nicole Smith. The former Playboy model and reality TV star married oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall in 1994. The marriage drew sharp criticism as he was 89 and she was 26. The marriage only lasted 14 months before Marshall passed away. He reportedly left his entire $1.6 billion estate to his son, with nothing left to Smith.
However, Smith challenged the will, claiming that Marshall promised to leave her $300 million. A number of courts, including a Texas bankruptcy court, rejected Smith’s numerous legal efforts to obtain money from the estate.
Smith’s estate even continued with litigation even after she passed away from a drug overdose in 2007, and a wicked custody battle ensued over her daughter, the sole heir to Smith’s fortune from her reality TV career.
Fast forward to August 2014, and Smith’s estate lost another court battle against Marshall’s estate. An Orange County federal court judge ruled against the estate, explaining that his ruling would be the final piece in the decades long litigation. He also noted that the fight over Marshall’s millions lasted nearly 20 times the length of the parties marriage.
Besides the obvious tabloid fodder that will follow the decision, the story is an example of why it is important to have experienced legal counsel when attempting to draw up a will. Should you have questions about crafting a will, a skilled lawyer can help.