Anna Nicole Smith's Estate Loses Latest Bid for a Piece of the Marshall Estate Pie
It's like a bad soap opera that refuses to end. An exotic dancer marries an eighty-nine-year-old billionaire. He dies a year later, leaving his new wife out of his will. She sues the estate and files bankruptcy, losing in the probate court but winning a multi-million-dollar judgment against the executor of the estate in bankruptcy court. (The executor was Pierce Marshall, the billionaire's son.)
The case stalled in bankruptcy court over sanctions against Pierce
Pierce then had the bankruptcy court ruling thrown out by the appellate court, so Anna Nicole appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, who rules in her favor. Pierce died shortly thereafter, but his wife, Elaine, picked up the baton and continued fighting Anna Nicole in court, challenging the bankruptcy court judgment on different grounds.
Then Anna Nicole had a baby girl, who she named Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern. Anna Nicole died a short time later, leaving her entire estate to her daughter. The executor of Anna Nicole's estate is Howard Stern, whose surname matches the baby girl, but whose genes do not. Stern's tenacity apparently matches Elaine's, because the legal battles between the estates still wage on.
Next step – an appeal in Texas?
The most recent court ruling ended the bankruptcy court proceedings, but that only opens the door for the Smith estate to revive it's long-sleeping appeal of the Texas probate court ruling, which denied Smith's claim for a portion of the estate in the mid-nineties, nearly twenty years ago.
Of course, the underlying question is whether the elder Marshall intended to leave any property to his young wife, and if so how much. If the son actually did the things he was accused of doing in court documents – submitting papers to his father for signature while misrepresenting the purpose, destroying documents after his fathers death, and other acts apparently intended to deprive Anna Nicole of any inheritance – perhaps Dannielynn is entitled to be reimbursed by Pierce's estate.
The bottom line is that one of the most effective tools in a well-structured estate plan is the trust. Trusts are an effective means of transferring property before your death, while still retaining a measure of control over the property, if you prefer. Trusts help ensure your chosen beneficiaries actually receive the property you want them to have.
Make an appointment to review your estate plan today
Our experienced Bryan-College Station, Texas estate planning attorneys provide information and assistance to guide you in developing a comprehensive estate plan or making sure your existing plan meets your needs. Call Peterson Law Group at 979-703-7014 to make an appointment, or fill out our online contact form to request a consultation.