One of the most famous and long-running celebrity bankruptcy cases our Chino personal bankruptcy attorneys know about involves Anna Nicole Smith, the late Playboy Playmate who was briefly married to Texas oil magnate J. Howard Marshall. Smith, who was 63 years younger than her husband, was involved in a lengthy court battle over Marshall's will with his son, E. Pierce Marshall. That case was complicated by Smith's filing for bankruptcy in California, which created a dispute over whether the estate should follow the bankruptcy court's ruling or a contradictory ruling from a Texas trial court. The Supreme Court has sent the case back to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals once already, but the case was appealed back up to the court and heard oral arguments Jan. 18, according to an Associated Press story.
Howard Marshall's will left his $1.6 billion fortune to Pierce Marshall, but Smith challenged the will, saying her husband had promised her millions during their one-year marriage. She contested the will in a Houston court that ultimately decided in Marshall's favor. But while that was going on, Smith filed for bankruptcy, which required her to list all assets she might have coming her way. Before the Texas court could rule, the California bankruptcy court awarded her $475 million from the estate, which was reduced on appeal to $89 million. This created a controversy over whether to honor the decision that came first, from California, or ignore it because it came from a bankruptcy court on a matter not "core" to the bankruptcy process. The Supreme Court will decide whether bankruptcy judges, who are not authorized in the same part of the Constitution as other federal judges, have the same authority.
As Carson individual bankruptcy lawyers, we are more interested in the Supreme Court's take on this than in who ultimately receives the money (Smith and the younger Marshall are both dead, so the battle is now between Smith's young daughter and Marshall's widow.) Normally, the ruling that comes first is the one that's respected, in the small number of cases heard in two courts. However, bankruptcy judges may not make final decisions on issues that are not "core" to bankruptcy, and the Ninth Circuit ruled that the bankruptcy court's decision on what Smith was owed was not "core." The Supreme Court is deciding whether it agrees. The clarity provided by such a ruling would likely be welcomed by bankruptcy attorneys. As a rule, we prefer rulings that give bankruptcy judges more flexibility -- but of course, within the boundaries of the law.
If you're struggling financially and you'd like to know if a bankruptcy would help, you should call Howard Law PC. Even if you don't stand to inherit millions, a bankruptcy may be the smartest and most responsible way to deal with debts that have grown beyond your ability to repay them. In exchange for selling off most of their assets (in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy) or sticking to a repayment plan for three to five years (in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy), clients can wipe away their remaining debt and get a chance to rebuild their credit from scratch. Our Santa Ana consumer bankruptcy attorneys help clients determine which of these options is best for them and navigate the complicated system of California bankruptcy exclusions, which protect certain property. Our goal is to ensure that our clients have the best chance to recover and thrive after a bankruptcy.
Howard Law offers free, confidential consultations, so you can talk to us at no further risk or obligation. To set up a meeting, call us toll-free at 1-800-872-5925 or send us a message through our website.