Apparently Anna Nicole Smith is rather charming among the octogenarian set. According to Yahoo!, the Supreme Court has expressed sympathy for Miss Smith in that her stepson is blocking her from retrieving a portion of her husband's estate.
Perhaps it is a moment for sympathy. After all, she didn't get to inherit 400+ million dollars. However, she wasn't in the will. Her claim stems from a promise that her husband made that he would "take care of her." In Texas, where he's from and where they lived while they were married, parol evidence like this doesn't work in probate. If you want the oral agreement, or even a written contract to "take care of someone for life" to count in a will, you also need an attestation in the will that the contract or parol evidence is to be kept. This is something that J. Howard Marshall's will didn't have, and is the reason why she was not able to recover in Texas.
So how did she get to receive money? Well, unlike her late husband, Anna Nicole spent a lot of time in California, and had a lot of trouble managing her money. She ended up in a bankruptcy hearing in Federal Court in California, where the judge allowed her to recover damages from her stepson for "tortious interference" by keeping his father from executing a will that would list Anna as beneficiary. I'm not quite sure how they determined that they had standing to settle a (settled) probate issue from Texas in a bankruptcy hearing in a California federal district court, but apparently, they found a way.
Now, I'd think that res judicata would rule on this issue, as the probate issue had been settled. However, it appears that my law student mind doesn't see things as well as the Supreme Court, who said that "that's just not the way our system works" (Justice Ginsburg), and "I fail to see your logic (on a similar assertion by J. Howard Marshall's son Pierce's lawyer) (Justice Souter)."
I'm anxious to see how this is going to turn out; but I fear that the decision will be the one that I think is wrong.