Celebrity Money Battles

Britney Spears
Britney Spears’ biggest fan may be a lawyer she doesn’t want.

Spears’ life and career have improved since she was 26 and her father, Jamie Spears, became her legal conservator and guardian. Last October, Britney agreed to have her father continue to make decisions for her and to control her extensive finances indefinitely. Case closed, right?

Not so fast. At the beginning of the conservatorship, an attorney named Jon Eardley claimed that Britney, now 27, had asked him over the telephone to help her fight the conservatorship. Britney’s father moved for a restraining order against him. Eardley insisted that if Britney was well enough to go on tour, she could appear in court to help support his defense. Eardley even tried to move the case to Federal Court, arguing Britney was denied a fair trial in the California Superior Court.

None of that worked. Early in March, Eardley was back before the judge in Los Angeles, claiming Britney was being subjected to forced labor similar to what Soviet dissidents endured as described by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his famous book, “The Gulag Archipelago.”

Eardley’s request to have the restraining order preventing him from filing papers on her behalf was denied. And last week, he was also ordered to stay at least 100 yards away from her and her kids for three years.

Whitney Houston
When Whitney Houston’s father died in 2003, Whitney Houston was the beneficiary of his $1 million life insurance policy. Six years later, Whitney’s stepmother, Barbara Houston, sued Whitney, claiming the policy was to be for her own benefit as a widow.

The tale started when Whitney, now 45, was good enough to loan her father $723,000 to buy a condo for himself and his wife. According to Barbara, the life insurance policy was supposed to cover that outlay, and leave enough of a balance for herself.

Although Whitney’s lawyers sent signals back in January they would be attempting to settle the case out of court, Whitney filed a countersuit against Barbara in March, claiming she was entitled to keep not just the life insurance money, but an additional $1.6 million that Barbara owed her.

The counterclaim details that Barbara was a 27-year-old “custodial care services worker” in Newark, New Jersey, when she met Whitney’s father, 67, while cleaning his home. It goes on to explain that Whitney’s father divorced Whitney’s mother to marry Barbara.

Further, it lists Whitney’s payments for everything from cars and gas and air conditioning to furnishings and remodeling at Barbara’s direction.

Airing this much dirty laundry is unnecessary, but not unusual. It’s a sign of understandable bitterness that often leads to prolonged legal adventures.

Marlon Brando
Even before the legendary actor breathed his last in 2004, the Brando trust and estate began wrestling over his legacy. Since then, there have been 26 different lawsuits, including claims of sexual harrassment, forgery, fraud, undue influence and abuse.

Some claim that Brando, who confined himself to his bedroom for months before his death, declined to the point that he wanted his room padlocked after he died to ensure nobody would steal the buttons from his shirt.

With the latest challenge, Brando’s three trustees are battling a Hollywood apartment development that dares feature a “Brando Loft.” Their own Brando-branded enterprise plans an environmentally conscious condo complex in the South Pacific, projected to cost between $50 and $100 million.

With that, even The New York Times weighed in last week.

Anna Nicole Smith
After 14 months of marriage, Anna Nicole Smith’s 90-year-old husband, J. Howard Marshall, died in 1995. His storied career in law, government, and oil left a fortune worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But none of it went to Anna Nicole, who claimed in a series of lawsuits that her stepson, Pierce Marshall, had forged documents and lied to his father to interfere with her inheritance.

In 2006, after a series of complex court cases that included appeals all the way to the United States Supreme Court, Anna Nicole was awarded a total judgment of $88 million dollars in damages from Pierce Marshall, the stepson. He died within months, before she could collect the money. And then, of course, less than a year later, she died as well.

Last month, Howard K. Stern, who was proven not to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter, Dannielynn, asked the Supreme Court to allow the money to be paid. His fear was that the Pierce Marshall estate would dispose of its assets and never pay the Anna Nicole Smith estate. His request was denied, until all outstanding legal issues are resolved.

That could take years. And the money could well be gone by the time the case is resolved. By then, Stern could be serving time in jail for the criminal charges he is now facing for providing Anna Nicole with thousands of prescription pills before her final overdose.

Source: Andy Mayoras is an internet-savvy probate lawyer. Besides practicing probate law in the Detroit area, he uses Twitter to announce interesting developments in legal cases. For more information on the cases above, see his Probate Lawyer Family Feud Blog.