US court strips Anna Nicole of her late husband's $88 million legacy
ANNA Nicole Smith, the former Playboy model, was yesterday mourning the loss of $88 million (£46 million) after judges in the United States confiscated her share of her late husband's estate.
The ruling ended a nine-year battle triggered by one of the most bizarre marriages in history - the bride was 26 and her groom was 89, wheelchair-bound and mentally compromised. He was also the richest man in Texas.
As Smith nursed her wounds yesterday, with her lawyer still insisting that her late husband, JHoward Marshall, would have wanted her to have a slice of his fortune, Mr Marshall’s son celebrated victory over the woman he refers to as "Miss Cleavage".
"Many people have asked over the many years if the fight to uphold my father's last wishes has been worth it," said EPierce Marshall, who is now the sole heir to his father’s $2 billion legacy. "I know Anna and her lawyers were counting on our family giving up and paying them an absurd sum to go away. That was never going to happen."
It is the second time Smith has been stripped of a stake in the late oil tycoon's estate. In 2001, a judge in California awarded her $475 million, but a subsequent court decision saw the sum being taken off the table following protests from Mr Marshall’s son.
However, in March 2002, another judge concluded that while the couple’s relationship had been "driven by greed and lust", Mr Marshall genuinely loved Smith. The US district judge backed Smith’s claim that she had a legal right to expect a posthumous "gift" from her husband following his death in 1995, based on promises he made to her and instructions he gave his lawyers to prepare a trust fund for her.
Mr Marshall’s son, meanwhile, had engaged in "malicious misconduct" in an attempt to keep the cashpot intact for himself, concluded the judge.
Late on Thursday, an appeals court voided that decision, stating that the judge had overstepped his authority in hearing the case. Smith, they ruled, is not entitled to a single cent beyond the $7 million she received during her 14-month marriage, a sum that included $2.4 million in jewellery and $700,000 to further her modelling career.
"Anna Nicole would never have had to work another day in her life if she had listened to her husband’s advice and not frittered away the money that he gave her for her future," said Mr Marshall’s son yesterday.
Smith, 37, is unlikely to take the news well. Her propensity for self-indulgent sulks and prima donna tantrums was a central feature of her reality television series, which showed her as an overweight layabout surrounded by a gaggle of sycophantic followers. She now claims to have since shed 69 pounds in eight months after signing a deal last year to advertise a slimming pill.
Born Vicki Hogan in Houston, Texas, Smith was raised mainly by her aunt after her parents divorced and became pregnant at the age of 16 by a colleague at the fried chicken restaurant where she worked.
The pair were briefly married but soon split, and Smith hit the road with her son, Daniel, in tow, changing her name and settling into a career at a strip joint.
It was there she met Mr Marshall, a widower. Their subsequent marriage, and the resulting publicity, elevated Smith to celebrity status, winning her a slot as Playboy’s first Playmate of the Year, in 1993, and a modelling contract with Guess jeans.
However, following her husband’s death in 1995, Smith, discovered that she was not mentioned in his will.
Despite her extensive efforts to get the fortune, she once declared: "Marrying into money was not a good thing for me."
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