Thursday, March 02, 2006

Marshall v. Marshall - or Anna Nicole Smith goes to Washington

Category: Probate and Estate Administration

From the Los Angeles Times:

"For much of her adult life, [Anna Nicole Smith, whose real name is Vickie Lynn
Marshall] sought the limelight. She was a 24-year-old topless dancer when she
met [billionaire J. Howard] Marshall; the oil tycoon proposed marriage a week
later. They wed in 1994, but he died a year later - leaving an estate estimated
at $1.6 billion.

Since then, [Anna Nicole] has been locked in a bitter legal battle with E.
Pierce Marshall, 67. At one point, his father's will had named him the sole
heir. But after Vickie Lynn and J. Howard Marshall married, the oilman ordered
his attorneys to draw up a trust that left her half of his assets.

The legal dispute grew more complicated when Vickie Lynn Marshall filed for
bankruptcy protection in California in 1996. Normally a federal bankruptcy court
can claim 'exclusive' control over all financial matters affecting the filer.
When a bankruptcy judge in Orange County took up the case, he ruled for Marshall
and said she was entitled to the money promised in her late husband's trust.

However, the Supreme Court has said that state courts should have
exclusive control over deciding wills and settling estates. E. Pierce Marshall
contended - and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed � that the will
should be decided in a Texas state court, not a federal bankruptcy court. That
legal dispute prompted the Supreme Court to take up the case.

But for the identity of the petitioner, the argument in Marshall vs. Marshall probably would have been held before a half-empty courtroom. "

See the entire Los Angeles Times Article

And one point of irony and interest from a similar article in the New York Times (Registration Required): "One question that may go unanswered is how J. Howard Marshall II left his affairs in such apparent confusion. He was not just an oilman. He was a lawyer — a professor of trusts and estates at Yale Law School."