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January 28, 2000 12:27pm
New Ruling for Oil Magnate's Widow
Source: AP

(HOUSTON, TX) -- A federal judge has withdrawn his ruling that Anna Nicole Smith was entitled to half of her late husband's oil fortune.

A new ruling is scheduled to be handed down later, the Houston Chronicle reported Friday, and legal experts said it was unclear what impact the new ruling would have in the case.

Last May, Los Angeles U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Samuel L. Bufford said Ms. Smith, a former Playmate of the Year, was entitled to an estimated $820 million from the estate of her late husband, Texas oilman J. Howard Marshall II.

Since then, there's been a debate about whether Bufford has jurisdiction on the matter because a county probate court is scheduled to divide the estate in an upcoming Houston trial.

On Thursday, Harris County Probate Judge Mike Wood told lawyers he believes Bufford withdrew his order because he realized he has no jurisdiction. Wood has said only his court has jurisdiction over claims to Marshall's fortune.

Ms. Smith went to Bufford's court in October. Her lawyer said fraudulent handling of her husband's estate had left her broke.

Ms. Smith was 26 when she married the 89-year-old billionaire in 1994. Before he died 14 months later, her attorney said, he talked to two lawyers about assuring half of his estate would go to his wife.

That scenario was called a ``fantasy'' by a lawyer for Marshall's son, E. Pierce Marshall.

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