No, it can’t be. Has the 15-year saga started by Anna Nicole Smith, as she tried to get money from the estate of her deceased husband, really come to an end?
The court battle involved the fortune owned by the late J. Howard Marshall, II, who was a 90-year-old Texas oil billionaire before he passed away in 1995.
The case started in Texas probate court, moved to bankruptcy court in California, traveled up and down the federal court system through numerous appeals, hearings, and even two trips to the United States Supreme Court.
The case survived the death of both people who were fighting -- Anna Nicole Smith and her step-son (who was 27 years older than she was). But the case is alive no more. Anna Nicole’s quest for a bequest has failed.
That’s right, apparently love doesn’t conquer all.
We all know that Anna Nicole must have been deeply in love with Howard Marshall (whom she met while stripping) despite their age difference of more than 60 years. And she was rewarded for her love with about $8 million in gifts during their brief marriage that lasted just over a year.
But she never did get what she really hoped for: a piece of the inheritance pie. And what a pie it was! Valued at over $1.6 billion, the money went primarily to Marshall’s younger son, E. Pierce Marshall.
Anna Nicole won a judgment against him in California for $470 million based on a claim he wrongfully prevented his elderly father from changing his will and trust to include Anna Nicole. It was that judgment which the United States Supreme Court callously took away from the former Playboy Playmate of the Year.
The lengthy court opinion compared the case to Charles Dickens’ famous Bleak House tale of a tragic court case that went on… and on… and on. Five of the nine Supreme Court Justices felt the first bankruptcy judge who ruled in Anna Nicole’s favor violated the United States Constitution of all things (even though, interestingly, they felt his ruling would otherwise have been valid under federal statutory law).
So, thanks to that pesky Article III of the United States Constitution, the Estate of Vicki Lynn Marshall (the real name of Anna Nicole Smith) cannot recover any money from the Estate of Pierce Marshall. And this painfully long and, at times, shocking tale of a celebrity estate fight gone horribly wrong has reached its conclusion.
At Trial & Heirs, it is our mission to teach you, your loved ones and your clients how to protect families and life savings through good estate planning, so battles like this don’t happen to you and those you care about. So with each celebrity story, we share a lesson.
There are many lessons we could chose from for this story. Like using a fully-funded revocable trust to make sure that assets are protected from those that aren’t supposed to inherit (even when they are a spouse). And working with an experienced probate litigation attorney when a family fight does start, to prevent emotions from causing a mere disagreement to blow up into a protracted court fight. And, of course, warning families to be on the look out for undue influence as a means to exploit seniors.
But, for this story of lust, power, money and the court case that never wanted to end, we’ll go with a more obvious one: Keep your wealthy, elderly relatives out of strip clubs for goodness sake!
By Danielle and Andy Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys, and hosts of an upcoming national PBS special. The charismatic duo has appeared on the Rachael Ray Show, Forbes, ABC’s Live Well Network, WGN-TV and has lent their expertise and analysis to hundreds of media sources, including The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Kiplinger, and The Washington Post, among many others. As dynamic keynote speakers, Danielle and Andy delight audiences nationwide with highly entertaining and informative presentations, dishing the dirt on celebrity estate battles while dispensing important legal information to help people avoid family fights among their heirs. The couple spends their free time with their 8-year old son and seven-year old boy/girl twins.
For the latest celebrity and high-profile cases, with tips to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your clients, subscribe to The Legacy Update at www.TrialandHeirs.com.