U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Stern v. Marshall Against Anna Nicole Smith’s Estate

In Stern v. Marshall, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled against the estate of Anna Nicole Smith, who had married a Texas oil tycoon 63 years her senior a year before he died, The New York Times reports.

What this case illustrates is the importance of hiring an experienced New York Probate Lawyer who can sort out any estate planning and trust issues in New York City or elsewhere that need to be finalized to ensure a smooth process for all involved.
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According to The Times, Smith, a former Playboy playmate and model whose real name was Vickie Lynn Marshall, had once received a bankruptcy court award of more than $400 million and asserted that J. Howard Marshall II’s son had wrongfully interfered with a gift she had expected from his father.

The majority of justices held unconstitutional a provision of the bankruptcy laws that authorized bankruptcy judges to hear some kinds of claims. The case rested on the idea of separation of powers in the context of bankruptcy.

The case illustrates the need to hire an experienced New York Probate Lawyer who is well-versed in New York Probate Law and who can help you sort through this complex area of law. When bankruptcy court is involved, it can be even more difficult to navigate.

Selecting an executor to handle your New York estate or will may be the most important decision you can make in handling your finances. Being an executor of an estate means being responsible for distributing assets as laid out in a will.

While many people would look at this as an honor to be trusted with a person’s assets once they die, it brings with it a great deal of responsibility and dedication. There are legal obligations to being an executor and executors often can use the advise and counsel of a New York Estate Lawyer in how to handle major issues on behalf of an estate.

Wills may be challenged and other problems may arise, so hiring an experienced law firm can help settle these types of issues. Some issues may be handled outside of court and others require court oversight.

Some people think that handling an estate or executing a Will is as simple as contacting family members and doling out cash and family heirlooms, but there is much more. And one of the things that frustrates and mystifies many people are taxes on an estate.

Estate tax issues arise on both the State and Federal level. There are ways to minimize Federal and New York Estate Tax. One way to save is through a “QTIP” trust, which enables surviving spouses to bypass paying estate taxes through the use of a tax credit. Lifetime gifts and charitable contributions are other ways. Trying to do it alone will leave complications for survivors that can turn family members against each other and leave an estate open to unnecessary tax implications. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has previously discussed the recent changes that were enacted for the Federal Estate tax.


New York Probate Attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in estate proceedings throughout the past 30 years including Suffolk and Westchester Counties. For a free consultation, please call me at (212) 355-2575.

Previous Blog Entries:

Five Biggest Ways to Bungle a Trust in New York and Tips to Prevent Them: June 22, 2011
Additional Resources:

Anna Nicole Smith’s Estate Loses Supreme Court Case, by Adam Liptak, The New York Times

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