Model Anna Nicole Smith married her husband, who was more than 60 years older than her, in 1994. He was in the oil business and had acquired a significant fortune through his work. When he died just over a year after their wedding, Smith discovered that she was not named in his will. This began a lengthy inheritance dispute that outlived Smith, who died in 2007.

After her husband's death, Smith claimed that he had promised to leave her $300 million of his $1.6 billion estate. She took the case to court, going up against her deceased husband's son. Five years later, Smith was awarded $475 million by a California bankruptcy court. However, the dispute would go on for another 11 years.

In 2001, a federal court reduced her award to $89 million. Recently, though, years after both Smith and her husband's son had died, the Supreme Court ruled that the California bankruptcy court was not constitutionally allowed to try a probate case. Smith's estate will not inherit any amount of her late husband's estate.

This story is one that many Floridians dealing with estate or inheritance disputes can likely relate to. While this case garnered significant media attention and lasted more than 15 years, the main themes can resonate with anyone looking to create a will or dealing with inheritance issues.

This case clearly shows that often a person's word alone is not enough to be awarded an inheritance. For those who wish to change their wills, it is important to do so legally and in writing to ensure that your wishes are carried out when the time comes. If you would like to create a will or are seeking to alter an existing will, speaking to an experienced legal professional may be helpful.

Source: The Washington Post, "Anna Nicole Smith estate loses legal battle," Sarah Anne Hughes, 24 June 2011