Judge Bufford ruled that Smith’s expected inheritance was based on her “widow’s election”, or right to elect against her husband’s will, “which made no provision for her”. He said: “There is no doubt in this case that Smith had an expectancy to receive a substantial portion of Marshall’s wealth after his death,
Smith’s lawyers said she was “very pleased” and believed that the judge’s decision “puts the matter to rest”. The decision to award such a substantial sum to Smith shocked many observers who thought the Marshall family’s team of expensive lawyers would win the day.
The ruling, which came at the beginning of a trial expected to last months, will result in Smith also being awarded punitive damages, her lawyers said. The amount of damages has yet to be decided.
The Marshall family may yet lose more money. Smith, now living in Los Angeles and pursuing a career as a model and actress, has filed a separate lawsuit against E Pierce Marshall for not giving her half of her husband’s fortune when he died.