Estate planning attorneys frequently point out the fact that inheritance planning is not a “one and done” affair. The initial estate plan that you create is based on a snapshot of your life and your intentions as they stand on that day. It is often said that the only certainty in life is change, and very often these changes are going to impact the way that you view your legacy. So it is wise to recognize this from the start and proceed with the knowledge that estate plan updates are probably going to be necessary as you traverse the twists and turns of your life’s path.
Sometimes when you analyze a situation that involved others you can see why you should take action when necessary and adjust your estate plan so that your wishes are known with certainty. Perhaps the most famous disputed estate case of the last couple of decades was the Anna Nicole Smith matter. You will probably recall that Anna Nicole Smith a former playmate, married a billionaire oil tycoon named J. Howard Marshall when she was 26 years of age and Marshall was 89.
Marshall passed away approximately 13 months after the union took place. Anna Nicole Smith was not provided for in the will that Marshall left behind but she contended that Marshall told her verbally that he wanted her to have half of his fortune after he was gone. Virtually all of his estate was directed to one of his two sons. This son, E. Pierce Marshall, and Smith subsequently engaged in a long and acrimonious legal battle over the estate.
It was finally resolved when the Supreme Court awarded the entirety of the Marshall estate to the heirs of E. Pierce Marshall, who died in 2006. Smith died in 2007, so the case was still alive for years after both of the principals involved had passed away, taking a total around 15 years before a final decision was rendered.