The legal battle has raged for more than a decade ... but Anna Nicole Smith's estate may finally see a piece of the Playboy legend's millionaire dead husband ... possibly as much as $49 MILLION.
The Supreme Court ruled years ago that Anna's estate was NOT entitled to any of J. Howard Marshall's fortune -- estimated between $500 million and $1 billion -- but yesterday, a California judge said Anna's 6-year-old daughter Dannielynn is entitled to sanctions against Marshall's family.
The judge hasn't specified the amount of the sanctions yet ... but previously suggested they could run as high as $49 million.
The judge awarded the sanctions based on allegations that attorneys for Marshall's estate used unsavory tactics throughout litigation ... such as concealing crucial legal docs from Anna's estate lawyers.
Anna married oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall in 1994 when she was just 26 ... and he was 89. Marshall died a year later.