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Smith’s will throws inheritance into limbo

Anna Nicole Smith said in a 2001 will that all property of her estate should be given to longtime companion Howard K. Stern to hold in trust for her son, who has died, according to a document released Friday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The question of who will inherit Anna Nicole Smith’s estate was thrown into confusion Friday with the release of a 2001 will in which the former Playboy centerfold said her fortune should be held in trust for her son — who died last year.

The 19-page will did not say how much Smith was worth, so it is still a mystery how much money those battling over her and her baby daughter could get.

The document said Smith’s lawyer and boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, should be her executor and hold her estate in trust for son Daniel Smith. But he died last September at age 20 of apparently drug-related causes, days after the birth of the pinup’s daughter, Dannielynn.

And the will explicitly leaves out anything for anyone other than the son.

“I have intentionally omitted to provide for my spouse and other heirs, including future spouses and children and other descendants now living and those hereafter born or adopted,” Smith said in the will, which was signed under her legal name, Vickie Lynn Marshall.

Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin ordered the release of the will in the latest round in the tangled legal dispute that broke out after the voluptuous blonde died at a Florida hotel Feb. 8 at age 39. The cause of death is under investigation.

A lawyer for Smith’s estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, immediately challenged the will. Stephen Tunstall called the document a “phantom will,” saying it was not filed in court, so it is not valid.

The short, tragic life of the former Playboy playmate and model.

“They say he is an executor. You are not an executor or a personal representative unless a court appoints you,” Tunstall said.

But Stern attorney Ron Rale said: “The judge wanted it produced, but we won’t depend on it for our case.”

Chris Boyett, a trust and estate lawyer not connected to the Smith case, said that since Smith’s son is dead, the court will probably treat her estate as if she had died without a will, meaning her estate would by law go to her baby daughter.

“I don’t think the result will be that it goes to no one,” Boyett said. “I think the courts are going to find a beneficiary, and I think the beneficiary is going to be the minor child.”

But Jeff Baskies, another lawyer who is not involved in the case, said that it was unclear who should get Smith’s estate and that it would depend on the laws in the place where she claimed residency when she died. Smith had a home in the Bahamas.

Battle over body continuesThe document was released hours after the judge — who is trying to broker a three-way dispute over the body — gave the OK to embalm Smith’s remains.

Stern and Arthur are fighting over where Smith should be buried and who will get custody of the baby. Stern, who is listed as the baby’s father on the birth certificate, says Smith wanted to be buried next to her son in the Bahamas. Arthur wants her buried in Smith’s home state of Texas.

A third figure in the dispute, photographer Larry Birkhead, claims to have fathered Dannielynn and won permission to take DNA from Smith’s body in hopes of proving it. It was Birkhead’s DNA request that had held up the embalming.

The will did not say where Smith wanted to be buried. Nor did it mention her mother.

The judge ordered Stern, who was in the Bahamas and did not attend Friday’s hearing, to appear in court Tuesday when the case resumes.

“This is a struggle for all of us,” the judge said. “Let everyone perspire here.”

Smith was the widow of Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, whom she married in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26. She had been fighting his family over his estimated half-billion-dollar fortune since his death in 1995.