A federal bankruptcy judge awarded former Playboy Playmate of the Year Anna Nicole Smith $449.7 million today in her claim to the estate of her late billionaire husband, Texas oilman J. Howard Marshall.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Samuel Bufford ruled that Marshall’s youngest son, E. Pierce Marshall had deprived Smith “of her expectancy of an inheritance.”
The decision also will result in Smith being awarded punitive damages, her attorney, Philip Boesch Jr., told The Associated Press tonight.
Smith, her attorney said, was “very pleased” and believes the ruling “puts the matter to rest.”
Family Feud Smith testified last year that E. Pierce Marshall defrauded her of between $556 million and $820 million she was entitled to as her share of her late husband’s estate.
The former model for Playboy, Guess jeans and other magazines and advertisements, was working as a stripper at a topless bar in Houston when she met Marshall. She was 26 and he was 89 when they were married in 1994.
He died the following year at age 90, leaving behind a fortune estimated at as much as $1.6 billion.
Smith, who uses her married name of Vickie Lynn Marshall in court documents, claims her husband intended she would receive half of his estate.
“He wanted to make me happy,” she testified last year. “My wish was his command.”
But when he died in 1995, Marshall’s will bequeathed everything to the younger of his two sons.
Bufford ruled that Smith’s expected inheritance was based on her “widow’s election,” or right to elect against her husband’s will, “which made no provision for her.”
Marshall’s son disagreed, saying various trusts and wills left behind by his father made it clear he and his older brother, Howard Marshall III, should get everything. He also contended that his father’s estate was not worth anywhere near $1.6 billion.
The elder brother, meanwhile, was allegedly later disinherited over a business dispute. He owns a Los Angeles electronics company and is also suing for a portion of his father’s money.
Promises and Expectations Smith, who lives part-time in Los Angeles, filed the bankruptcy case in January 1996 because she had not received an inheritance. The ruling comes after a two-week trial last October.
As an inducement to marry him, Marshall promised Smith that he would leave her half of what he had, according to the judge’s ruling.
Marshall’s wealth consisted mostly of his ownership of 16 percent of the outstanding shares of Koch Industries Inc., an oil company that is the nation’s second largest privately held corporation, the ruling said.
The stock was worth an estimated $1.4 billion at the time of his death. During their marriage, its value rose by $449.7 million, the amount of the judgment.
“There is no doubt in this case that (Smith) had an expectancy to receive a substantial portion of (Marshall’s) wealth after his death,” the judge ruled.