Feb. 16, 2007 -- In the latest twist in the Anna Nicole Smith legal drama, a will signed by Smith on July 30, 2001, and released today by a Florida court leaves everything to her son Daniel, who died in September.
Some legal experts believe that Smith's 5-month-old daughter Dannielynn likely will inherit Smith's entire estate, while others say the baby was specifically disinherited before she was even born.
The stakes are high: Smith's estate stands to gain as much as $484 million in a California lawsuit against the estate of Smith's late husband J. Howard Marshall. The will is a "mess," according to trust and estate attorney Gary Rudolf, and will like create a new round of legal wrangling.
Will May Exclude 'Future Children'
The will was written before Dannielynn's birth and contains what trust and estate attorney Lynn Pearle calls a "bizarre and highly unusual" provision that specifically excludes any "spouse and others heirs, including future spouses and children."
According to legal experts, this language essentially disinherits Smith's "future child" Dannielynn and makes her son Daniel the only beneficiary of the will.
It also names Howard K. Stern, Smith's partner and lawyer and the alleged father of Dannielynn, the will's executor in charge of carrying out the instructions stated in the document.
Yet Stern's attorney Bruce Ross believes that despite the will's "unusual" and "unfortunate" language about excluding future children, it "will be construed to establish a trust for her only living child, Dannielynn, based on a reading of the entire document and the circumstances of its execution."
Ross told ABC News that Smith and her lawyers intended to provide for any future children and that this intention will be recognized and followed by the court. If this view prevails, Stern will automatically become trustee for Dannielynn under the will.
Dannielynn May Inherit Everything
Depending on how the court interprets the will, baby Dannielynn may well get Smith's entire estate which could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Some legal experts say that because of the death of the will's sole beneficiary, Smith may be treated as if she died without a will ("intestate") and under the laws of most states, her only child Dannielynn would inherit everything.
If the court determines that Dannielynn is the beneficiary according to the will, as Ross contends, then she would also inherit the estate, but gain control of her money in phases at ages 25, 30 and 35, instead of at age 18. But if the court believes that Smith intended to exclude her unborn child, the disposition of her estate will be mired in more legal challenges.
Even if Dannielynn gets everything, there will almost certainly be legal battles to come. The most important fight will be over Dannielynn's paternity, particularly since whoever is declared the father could gain custody of Dannielynn and possibly control her potentially enormous inheritance until she turns 18.