Dannielynn Hope Marshall Birkhead has been handed the keys to the castle.
Larry Birkhead's 18-month-old daughter with Anna Nicole Smith was declared the sole beneficiary to the late model's estate Tuesday, after a Los Angeles judge approved Howard K. Stern's petition to clarify his departed paramour's earthly intentions.
"We and Mr. Stern always believed that Anna Nicole never intended to disinherit her daughter," Stern's attorney, Bruce S. Ross, said after court Tuesday. "I'm pleased to say this chapter in the saga is closed."
L.A. Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff's ruling also establishes a trust on Dannielynn's behalf, with her father and Stern serving as cotrustees. (View the documents.)
The once litigious pair were not present in court, but Ross said that neither had any particular disagreement as far as Dannielynn's financial future was concerned. DNA confirmed that Birkhead is Dannielynn's biological father about two months after Smith's death.
Smith's assets at the time of her passing were estimated at $710,000, but Tuesday's ruling leaves Dannielynn poised to inherit millions if the decade-plus legal battle between Smith (and now Smith's estate) and the family of her late husband, billionaire oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, turns in her favor.
Marshall, who was 90 and had been married to Smith for 14 months when he died in 1995, left most of his fortune to his widow, a decision his family has been raging against ever since.
Stern filed papers Oct. 18 seeking to having Dannielynn singled out as Smith's heir, presuming the former Playboy Playmate would have certainly provided for her daughter had she drawn up a more recent will.
Smith died Feb. 8, 2007, of an accidental prescription drug overdose in Hollywood, Florida. She was 39.
The will filed in probate court was made out in 2001 and named Smith's son, Daniel, who died several days after Dannielynn's birth in September 2006, as the sole heir. The document also said, however, that the assets in Daniel's trust should be divided equally among any siblings if Smith had other children.
"As a matter of law, Dannielynn is a pretermitted heir," Stern's petition stated, meaning she was an accidental omission, or someone who likely would have been named in the will except for the fact that the person drawing up the will didn't know her at the time.
An ongoing inquest into Daniel's death is scheduled to resume Mar. 17 in the Bahamas. Birkhead and Stern are expected to be called to testify about his close relationship with his mother and the days leading up to the 20-year-old's death, also of an accidental Rx overdose.