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Image: Anna Nicole Smith, Howard K. Stern, baby
Entertainment Tonight via AP
Anna Nicole Smith is shown with her attorney Howard K. Stern and Smith's newborn daughter Dannielynn Hope on Nov. 2, 2006, in the Bahamas home.
updated 2/9/2007 2:52:58 PM ET 2007-02-09T19:52:58

A judge on Friday refused to order an emergency DNA test on the body of Anna Nicole Smith as part of a paternity suit involving her infant daughter, but he ordered that the body be preserved until a hearing in 10 days, attorneys said.

Two men are contesting the paternity of 5-month-old Dannielynn, and experts say the custody decision could determine the child’s inheritance.

With major legal issues undecided, Smith’s legacy could take years to untangle and could leave the baby girl with millions of dollars or nothing at all.

Larry Birkhead, a former boyfriend of Smith, claims he is the father, though another man is listed on the birth certificate. His attorney Debra Opri requested Friday’s hearing to ask the judge to order that DNA be immediately collected from the Smith, who died Thursday in Florida.

“Nothing was granted. Nothing was denied,” Opri said after the hearing. She said another hearing had been set for Feb. 20 and the judge had ordered Smith’s body preserved until a decision was made.

The DNA is needed to connect Smith with Dannielynn “so that no one can switch the babies,” Opri said.

She also asked the judge to take jurisdiction over the child — reported to be in the Bahamas with friends of Smith — until her paternity is established. The judge did not rule on that request.

Attorney Howard K. Stern, Smith’s most recent companion, is listed on Dannielynn’s birth certificate as her father. If it is determined he is the biological father and if he was legally married to Smith — which has yet to be established — Stern, not Dannielynn, would likely inherit Smith’s estate, experts say.

Urgency for testing 'despicable'
Ron Rale, an attorney for Anna Nicole Smith, decried the push for the test so soon after her death. He said there was no urgency because his client’s DNA would be irrelevant in determining who fathered the child.

“It is despicable that we would have an emergency notice and appear right now,” Rale outside court.

If Smith left no will, and if she and Stern weren’t married, then the baby’s father and child likely would split her assets, according to Christopher Cline, an estate planning lawyer with the firm of Holland and Knight.

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“It’s a really large legal quagmire,” said Cline, who enumerated some of the many questions hanging in the balance.

“I’ve never seen a case with more moving parts,” he said, comparing the legal morass in its complexity with unraveling the estate of billionaire Howard Hughes — albeit with less money involved.

Cline outlined a series of crucial questions that range from the paternity of the child to Smith’s country of residency and, most importantly, whether she had a will. If there was a will, Cline said, questions would arise about where it was drafted and signed. If she did not have a will, the laws of her country of residence would apply.

She had been living in the Bahamas recently and gave birth to her daughter there in September.

Years of legal battles ahead
It also wasn’t clear how her death affects the lawsuit still pending against her late husband’s estate. Experts in Texas, where Smith fought for millions of dollars in inheritance, said the court battles will go on.

“The claims will survive to her estate,” said Charles W. “Rocky” Rhodes, a South Texas College of Law professor who has followed the complicated series of lawsuits involving Smith and the family of her dead husband.

“In criminal cases like we had with Ken Lay, where the defendant died, it was over,” he said. “But in civil cases where the claim is for money, your estate and the heirs you have from the estate are able to continue the litigation in the name of the representatives of the estate.”

E. Pierce Marshall, her late husband’s son who had been fighting her over his father’s estate, died in June. But the Marshall family vowed to continue the fight.

Family lawyer Mark Vincent Kaplan of Los Angeles, who has handled many celebrity paternity cases, said he believes Stern initially will receive custody of the child because he is listed on the birth certificate.

“The paternity test should be expedited,” he said, “because if he is not the bio dad he has no rights to custody. But I predict there will be a will saying that Howard K. Stern is the father.”

He added that another complication could arise if Stern was the lawyer who drew up the will and may be listed as the executor.

“By law, he can’t be both the executor and the beneficiary,” Kaplan said.

The Smith saga has been filled with so many deaths, Kaplan said, that lawyers are beginning to talk about a curse on the litigation. Just five months ago, Smith’s 20-year-old son Daniel died suddenly in the Bahamas in what was believed to be a drug-related death.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Anna Nicole Smith

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  1. Texas teen

    Anna Nicole Smith's photo is seen in a 1985 Mexia (Texas) High School yearbook under the name Nikki Hart. School officials say Smith went by the name Nikki Hart during her brief tenure there. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Short, tragic life

    The cover of the June 1993 Playmate of the Year issue of Playboy magazine featured Anna Nicole Smith. Smith, the pneumatic blonde whose life played out as an extraordinary tabloid tale -- jeans model, Playboy centerfold, widow of an octogenarian billionaire, reality-show subject, tragic mother -- died Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007, after collapsing at a Hollywood, Fla., hotel. She was 39. (Playboy) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. She had drive

    Smith holds a Texas license plate that reads "PMOY 93" (Playmate of the Year). (Time & Life Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Happy husband

    Millionaire J. Howard Marshall II made headlines in 1994 when he married Smith. She was 26 and he was 89. He died Aug. 5, 1995, when he was 90. Smith and Marshall's son, E. Pierce Marshall, battled over Marshall's estate. The boy next to Marshall is Smith's late son, Daniel. (Sipa Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Daniel's short life

    Smith and her son Daniel, 13, leave a federal courthouse in Los Angeles on Oct. 27, 1999. His body was found in the Bahamas on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006. A coroner's report ruled the death was caused by an overdose of anti-depressants and methadone. (Nick Ut / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Fighting for her share

    Smith listens in court in Houston with her attorneys Tom Cunningham and Howard Stern on Monday, Oct. 2, 2000. Sixteen jurors, four of them alternates, were seated to hear the lawsuit where Smith laid claim to a share of the oil fortune of her deceased husband, J. Howard Marshall II. Smith married the Texas oil tycoon in 1994 and he died the following year. Stern later reportedly married Smith and claimed to be the father of Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern. (Steve Ueckert / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Back to work

    Smith is surrounded by members of KISS at the conclusion of the Lane Bryant show featuring plus size fashions in New York on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2002. The legendary rock band gave a live performance throughout the runway show, which kicked off New York Fashion Week. (Robert Mecea / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Activist

    In this handout image from PETA, Smith poses as Marliyn Monroe for a 2004 ad campaign titled, Gentlemen Prefer Fur Free Blondes. PETA's Michael McGraw said in reaction to Smith's death, "She was a great friend to animals and used every opportunity to speak out against senseless cruelty." (PETA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Hot pink

    Smith walks the runway at the Heatherette fashion show during Olympus Fashion Week in New York on Feb. 12, 2004. (Matthew Peyton / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Always outrageous

    Smith feigns a "wardrobe malfunction" before announcing Rikku in "Final Fantasy X-2" as the Hottest Character award winner during "G-Phoria -- The Award Show 4 Gamers" in Los Angeles on Aug. 1, 2004. (Jim Ruymen / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Strange behavior

    Smith waves during an appearance backstage during the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia on July 2, 2005. The production company behind the concerts claimed in a lawsuit against Trimspa Inc. that its reputation was damaged by Smith's attire and conduct. Smith, a spokesperson for Trimspa, was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. (Coke Whitworth / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Wowing the Supremes

    Smith and her lawyer Howard K. Stern leave the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 28, 2006. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that Smith could continue her claim for part of her late husband's fortune. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Home sweet home?

    Smith holds her daughter Dannielyn Hope and poses with Stern and "Entertainment Tonight" co-host Mark Steines at the couple's home in the Bahamas on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006. Businessman and former boyfriend G. Ben Thompson threatened to evict Smith from her Bahamas home, claiming she wasn't making the mortgage payments. (Entertainment Tonight via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. No sign of trouble

    Smith watched a boxing match from near ringside at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2007. She died Feb. 8, 2007. (Hans Deryk / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A mother mourns

    Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, center, and her husband James Arthur, left, embrace as the coffin of Anna Nicole leaves a Bahamas church on March 2, 2007, as the former Playboy model headed to her final resting three weeks after her death. A throng of Bahamians, tourists and media crushed behind police barriers as the pink-laced white coffin was carried into the Mount Horeb Baptist Cathedral in Nassau, Bahamas, for a funeral ceremony closed to all but 300 invited guests.The church was reportedly filled with pink roses, and sources close to the funeral said Smith's body was clad in a gown and tiara. (Robert Sullivan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Laid to rest

    Locals stand before the grave of Smith at the Lakeview Memorial Gardens in Nassau, Bahamas, on March 2, 2007. (Robert Sullivan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 'I told you so!'

    Larry Birkhead rejoices after hearing in a Bahamian court on April 10, 2007, that he has been proven to be the legal father of Smith's baby, Dannielynn. Birkhead later hugged Howard K. Stern, who had been acting as the baby's father. (Christine Aylen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Derby day with daughter

    Birkhead and Dannielynn feed a pony at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday, April 28. 2010. Birkhead, a Louisville native, first met Anna Nicole at a 2004 party around the famous horse race. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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