Famous Challenges to Wills: Celebrities in Court

Sep 7, 2013
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Written by Dominic Woolrych

It seems the bigger the fortune the bigger the claims

Anna Nicole Smith and Howard Marshall II

Love moves in mysterious ways – no more mysterious then when 26 year old Guess model, Anna Nicole Smith married 89 year old Texas billionaire, Howie Marshall. Howie sadly moves to the next life after only 18 months getting to know his new bride.

Howie leaves a will with one of his sons named as the sole beneficiary. However, Anna Nicole says she has a love pact with Howie and he promised her half the $1.6 Billion. Anna Nicole and son go to battle in court. He wins, then she wins, then he wins, then she sort of wins – and the dispute still rages through the courts (even after Anna Nicole has moved on too).

Howard Hughes

Billionaire American industrialist led an unusual life making his mark in Hollywood, aviation, politics and ending up a recluse. He died in 1976 with over $2 Billion in assets and no will. Ultimately the money was distributed to his cousins UNTIL Melvin Dummar, a Utah petrol station attendant arrives with a will purported signed by Hughes leaving over $100Million to Melvin.

The reason Melvin claims is that he saved Hughes’ life once on the side of a road. Melvin had three goes at litigating his claim and to date has been unsuccessful

Doris Duke

Dorris Duke was 12 when she was left a $100 Million from her father (Duke University, etc.) in 1925. She had a non-traditional life – including adopting a 35 year old Hare Krishna follower when she was in her 70s – thus allowing him access to her trust fund. There was a falling out and she de-adopted him (making him an orphan again) and paid him out tens of millions.

The reclusive Doris died and foul play was suspected from her butler but nothing was ever proven and the butler became the executor of her estate but was dismissed some years later for spending her money on his lifestyle.

Gary Coleman

The diminutive actor died in 2010 at age 42. He left with few assets (a small home with a mortgage) but a lot of wills (three). The final one left his assets to his wife – but they had already divorced. So a court case ensued and Gary’s former business partner ended up with the house and his ashes.

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