Celebrity Estate Lessons -J. Howard Marshall II

Oil derrick during sunset
This week's topic is a surprise sequel to last week's (I didn't know either)! J. Howard Marshall II co-founded Great Northern Oil. A few years later, Fred Koch bought a substantial share in the company, with his company eventually acquiring a majority share. In 1969, Charles Koch traded shares in Koch Industries for Marshall's remaining shares in Great Northern Oil.
Last week we went into detail about the fight between the Koch brothers over taking their company public. Marshall's eldest son (confusingly named J. Howard Marshal III) was written out of his Will after siding with Fred Koch against his younger brothers. At that time, Marshall bought back $8 million worth of stock that had been given as a gift.
In 1994, Marshall married Anna Nicole Smith and this is where things get messy. Fourteen months later, Marshall died, leaving almost everything to his youngest son, E. Pierce Marshall (who had sided with his father during the Koch dispute). The estate was valued at $1.6 billion dollars.
Smith challenged the Will, stating that her husband had promised to leave her over $300 million in addition to the gifts given during the marriage. She teamed up with Marshall's eldest son in a lawsuit to challenge the Will.
During the lawsuit, Smith filed for bankruptcy in California, alleging that Pierce had interfered with her inheritance. California awarded her $474 million dollars, but there was a legal question about whether California had any say in a Texas probate case. The matter rose to the Supreme Court, who said that they did.
Within six months, Smith and Pierce had both died, but the lawsuit continued. In 2014, Smith's case was finally settled, finding that she was owed nothing from the estate.
By 2017, Judge Mike Wood recused himself saying, "They can't agree on anything. They can pay lots of lawyers. They can pay lawyers until hell freezes over. But they don't want to agree to anything. They just want to pay lawyers."
So, what happened to the money? Basically, exactly what J. Howard Marshall wanted. Since Pierce had died by the time everything was sorted out, his inheritance passed to his wife, Elaine Tettemer Marshall in the form of a Trust.
This is a great example of how a well written estate plan can carry out your wishes even after you pass; even with scads of lawsuits, the original Will was held up in court. It's a good idea to take the time now to make sure everything is set up for later. Contact Harrison Estate Law to learn more.