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Friday, February 16, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith's Will: A Lesson in Careful Drafting?

You may have heard that mysteriously famous Anna Nicole Smith passed away last week. Are there any lessons in careful drafting that we can learn from Anna Nicole Smith's will? Certainly seems that way.

Smith's will, executed in 2001, appears to leave everything in trust to her son. However, as any consumer of mainstream news surely knows by now, her son passed away in September, just three days after the birth of her daughter. Does the will provide for her newborn daughter? Article I of the will appears to purposefully exclude any future spouses or children:

Except as otherwise provided in this Will, I have intentionally omitted to provide for my spouse and other hiers, including future spouses and children and other descendents now living and those hereafter born or adopted, as well as existing and future stepchildren and foster children.

However (and this is where the drafting lesson comes in), as CNN coverage notes, later provisions in her will refer to her "children." For example, the will instructs the executor to manage the estate "such that my children are distributed sufficient sums for their health, education and support."

Sounds like the beginnings of an interesting interpretation battle.

[Meredith R. Miller]

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