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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 6, 2006 / 6 Adar, 5766

Laugh all you want, but a former stripper's lawsuit could reshape the nation's probate law

By Jonathan Turley

Turley
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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It is a classic American tale: Boy meets stripper, boy marries stripper, stripper goes to court to get the dead boy's estate. Of course, in this case, the "boy" was 90-year-old oil magnate Howard Marshall and the stripper is the buxom reality-TV star Anna Nicole Smith. The court is none other than the U.S. Supreme Court, where Anna's appearance today will draw more coverage than it would if Chief Justice John Marshall returned from the dead for the argument.


In the case of Marshall v. Marshall (Smith's legal name is Vickie Lynn Marshall), the characters are more interesting than are the issues.


This case, however, might have far-reaching consequences for both state and federal courts. The court will decide whether federal courts should defer to state probate courts in matters of disputed wills. Indeed, Smith might achieve a small type of legal immortality becoming for probate law what Miranda was to criminal law and Brown was to constitutional law. Of course, before she becomes the pin-up girl for probate lawyers, the court must sift through a case that would have been rejected by Hollywood scriptwriters as a bad Dallas re-run.


Smith's transformation from stripper to law giver is quite a turnaround by any measure. It began when Howard Marshall's chauffeur drove him to Rick's Cabaret, a strip club in Houston, and he saw Smith, a popular 23-year-old topless dancer and a Playboy model. Marshall was an 86-year-old in a wheelchair with a penchant for strippers. (His mistress for 22 years was another Houston stripper, Jewel DiAnne "Lady" Walker, who had died two months earlier from complications from liposuction surgery.)


While Smith described him as a "frisky man," Marshall lived only 14 months after their marriage. When he died, things got ugly with Marshall's son and heir, Pierce, who revealed that, shortly before his death, Marshall had changed his earlier will to make it irrevocable a will that did not mention Smith.


These types of disputes are usually resolved in state probate courts. Yet the Texas court was never a promising venue for Smith, who had only a claim of an oral promise from Marshall. (Smith would prove a disastrous witness, appearing in a pink top emblazoned with the word "Spoiled" and admitting that she can't understand most multi-syllabic words).


Sensing a dry hole in Texas state court, Smith's attorneys went to federal bankruptcy court, claiming the assets of the estate as part of her potential worth. This time, it was Pierce who cratered before the court. The federal judge found that Pierce had destroyed evidence (related to the trust for Smith) and engaged in misconduct showing "willfulness, maliciousness and fraud." He awarded Smith $450 million, later lowered to $89 million and then reversed by a federal appellate court in deference to the Texas probate court.


Now, the question is whether the court will issue a decision against the federal courts. Ironically, by wrapping herself in the jurisdiction of the federal courts, Smith has a new patron: Uncle Sam. The U.S. solicitor general will appear in defense of her bankruptcy judgment.


Even without this money, Smith has earned millions from the proceeds of her reality show and other ventures not bad for a woman who began as a night cook at Jim's Krispy Fried Chicken in Mexia, Texas. Indeed, in a recent poll by Forbes.com, Smith was ranked as 5th out of the 10 most financially savvy. Though it is true that she lost to Warren Buffett, Alan Greenspan and economist (also 1976 Noble Laureate) Milton Friedman, she did manage to beat Bill Gates and Donald Trump.


For any stripper-turned-millionaire wannabes, the case is a cautionary tale that one should research carefully before abandoning the dance pole. There are 41 "common law property" states where surviving spouses have two options when facing a contested estate. In virtually all common-law states, the spouse can either accept what was given under the will or take an "elective share," or "force share," usually one-third of the estate. So, if your sugar daddy left you struggling on $100 million of a $1.6 billion estate in his will, you can "elect against the will" and take a statutory share of roughly $533 million.


If you are in a community-property state (such as Texas), property acquired during the marriage is owned equally. While Smith claimed $800 million under community-property rule (not including $6 million in gifts), much of Marshall's estate was not only gained before their marriage but most of it (except roughly $100 million) also was put into independent trusts before his death and is not legally part of the estate.


Of course, for probate lawyers, this will be forever known as the lap dance that changed the law. Trust me, for probate law that is about as exciting as it can get.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Jonathan Turley is a law professor at George Washington University. Click here to visit his website. Comment by clicking here.

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