Anna Nicole Smith. Show me the money!


The media interest in Anna Nicole Smith’s death recently, initially focused on the details and circumstances surrounding the event.  Then media interest moved onto the debate over the true identity of her infant’s father.

But perhaps a more interesting question related to this event is… Who gets all the money from Anna Nicole’s estate?!

Anna Nicole had a Will which left everything to her adult son and made no mention of any partner or any other children.  But her son died before her, thus leaving no effective Will.

So does it all go to her baby daughter?  Or to her husband/ defacto?   And what an estate it is to try and divide up!   At the time of her death, Anna Nicole was in the process of contesting her wealthy deceased husband’s Will.  It is not yet clear what portion of that sizeable estate will go to Anna Nicole’s estate now…. No wonder all the men in Anna Nicole’s life claimed paternity of her baby.

In Australia, each state has different laws relating to Wills and entitlements where the Will is not clear.  For example, in NSW, an estate might be split so that a de facto gets a portion of cash, the deceased’s personal effects (‘household chattels’),  and one half of the estate.  To claim as a ‘de facto’, a partner must have been a continuous and only partner for the two years immediately prior to the passing away.

The lesson from looking at this high profile case, is that deaths can be very complicated and a deceased’s intentions should be clearly defined in an up-to-date Estate Plan (which includes a Will and other instructions) – in order to prevent confusion over entitlements.    

Remember that every time circumstances change, one needs to revisit the relevant documents in an Estate plan.  For example, investments related to new superannuation laws may change the way a Will can be distributed;  every time there is a birth or death in a family or a changed relationship, benefits may be affected;  and a move inter-state means that local laws could influence claims against an estate.  

How will your assets be distributed to chosen beneficiaries?  Make sure that your intentions are clear!