Anna Nicole Smith’s legal team lose final will dispute

Published 11 Sep 2014

In a case spanning nearly two decades, a US federal judge has finally declared time on the late Anna Nicole Smith’s bid for her husband’s fortune.

This curious case began shortly after the then 26-year-old Smith married 89-year-old Texas billionaire J. Howard Marshall in 1994. Marshall died just 14 months into the marriage, supposedly leaving Smith to a $44 million share of his estate.

However, Smith soon had a shock when Marshall’s will was read. There was nothing left to her in the will and the entire $1.6 billion estate was allocated to his son instead.

Smith, under her real name of Vickie Lynn Marshall, contested the will. She claimed that her husband promised to leave her more than $300 million in addition to the cash and gifts she was given during their marriage. But last month the court finally rule that Marshall was mentally fit and under no undue pressure when the will was created – thus ending this drawn out saga.

Over the last 20 years, this case has been heard in the Texas bankruptcy court, local and federal courts and, more recently, in the US Supreme Court.

In fact, the contested will case continued even after Smith died in 2007 after an accidental drug overdose. Lawyers representing Smith continued the action on behalf of her seven-year-old daughter.

US District Court Judge David O. Carter offered some insight into the case during the summing up process.

“Time spent litigating the relationship between Vickie Lynn and J. Howard has extended for nearly five times the length of their relationship and nearly twenty times the length of their marriage.”

“It is neither reasonable nor practical to go forward,” the judge said in his ruling.

NSW reference

This US case is a good example of how people who may think they are entitled to part of an estate can be blocked by the courts. There have been few cases like this in Australia, but it does highlight some key points for those creating a will or thinking about challenging one.

Creating a will

  • Talk with family members to establish what is allocated to whom and to what amount
  • Ensure the will is constantly updated to reflect life changes such as children and marriage

Contesting a will

  • Challenging a will must be done within 12 months of the death in NSW
  • Establish whether you are eligible to challenge the will
  • Plaintiffs must provide sufficient evidence that shows why the will is not correct

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