She was heiress to a fortune, but Casey Johnson had trouble paying her bills and reportedly lived in a rat-infested house.
The 30-year-old socialite's life had reportedly increasingly spun out of control, after her family temporarily cut her off from the Johnson & Johnson fortune in a bid to steer her straight.
Johnson was found dead in her Los Angeles home on Monday. The cause of death is not yet known, although investigators have said they had found no evidence of trauma on her body.
At the time she died, court records showed Johnson owed Porsche Financial Services US$105,740.93, the New York Daily News said.
She also reportedly hid her leased Porsche Cayenne SUV in a garage to prevent the company from re-possessing it, it said. Johnson had failed to make her monthly repayments from June to July last year.
A friend told of other financial chaos, and described conditions of squalor at the Johnson home when she visited late last year.
"There are dirty dishes everywhere and rotting food. There is graffiti on the walls. The pool looks like a swamp," the friend, who was not named, told the New York Post.
"She can't pay her bills, so the electricity was cut off. She can't put gas in her car."
Former friend Jasmine Lennard also told the paper: "Her house on Mulholland Drive is a mess. The electricity is off, there are rats, the pool is green. She was supposed to be evicted and her Porsche is being repossessed."
Meanwhile Johnson's fiancee, reality TV star Tila Tequila, has attracted criticism after turning to Twitter to grieve.
Tequila posted a series of tweets about her feelings of loneliness and grief, claiming the internet gave her "temporary solace".
But celebrity blogger Perez Hilton accused Tequila of exploiting Johnson's death for her own publicity, and the pair traded insults over Twitter.
Police investigating Johnson's death also planned to talk to Tequila about her fiancee's drug use, the Post said.
- Sydney Morning Herald