Long the butt of jokes of late night comedians,former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith has entered a new arena. The Supreme Court today heard arguments in her action to re-open her claim against the estate of her late husband J. Howard Marshall (who died at the age of 90 after a brief marriage to Ms. Smith) . The Justices seemed extremely interested in all phases of this case which truly has something to interest everyone. It involves an estate of approximately 1.6 billion dollars, allegations of a forged will and chicanery on all sides.
The case, Marshall v. Marshall 04-1544 presents a panoply of issues which may be far-reaching indeed. We are not used to seeing probate matters handled in a federal forum but it is clear that this case has the potential to change all of that. The questions presented when certiorari was granted on September 27,2005 indicate the potential for very wide federal involvement in future probate matters. Absent some uniform probate statutes which will enable us to anticipate similar results for similar fact patterns in any jurisdiction, this may turn out to be a beneficial result.