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The Battle over Thomas Kinkade’s Estate – Two Wills and an Estate Plan in the Mix

Thomas Kinkade is known as the “Painter of Light” and it is estimated that one in every 20 American homes displays a piece of his artwork on their walls.  On April 6th, Kinkade was found unresponsive in bed and paramedics were unable to revive him.  An autopsy later revealed that he had died of an overdose of alcohol and valium.

A brutal battle over Kinkade’s multimillion dollar estate (estimated at approximately $66 million) is underway between Kinkade’s estranged wife and his live-in girlfriend.  Nanette and Thomas Kinkade were high school sweethearts and were married for nearly 30 years and have raised four daughters together.  However, in 2010 Nanette filed for divorce and the couple is currently legally separated while going through the divorce proceedings.

Six months after their separation, Kinkade began dating Amy Pinto-Walsh, inviting her to move into his Monte Sereno mansion with him another six months later.  The couple had lived together for about a year when Kinkade passed away.  Pinto-Walsh claims that they were deeply in love and considered each other soulmates.  Supposedly the couple had been shopping for engagement rings together and they were planning to have a wedding in Fiji after his divorce to Nanette was finalized.  At this point there is no evidence to give credence to these claims.

Now, things really get complicated once you consider that Kinkade seems to not only have a formal estate plan but two Wills as well.  After his death, Pinto-Walsh presented two handwritten Wills (called a “holographic Will”) both declaring that she was to inherit $10 million in assets, his mansion and property as well as his vast art collection – essentially giving her his entire estate.  The state of California does consider holographic wills to be legally binding even without being notarized, so long as they are signed and dated at the bottom and the handwriting is proven to be legit and entirely done in the testator’s own hand.  However, if the individual suffered from undue pressure or is not at capacity to make such decisions then the Will can be considered void.

The real difficulty with these two Wills is that the handwriting is worse than chicken scratch and quite nearly illegible.  To see his actual Wills take a look at the bottom of this article: “Painter Thomas Kinkade’s estate battle centers on validity of handwritten wills.”  At the bottom of each will there is a typed translation.  An artist who paints with such intricacy as Thomas Kinkade must have a very steady hand in order to create such small details as are in his paintings, which makes it very unlikely that his handwriting would be so poor normally.  A writing specialist from California stated that the handwriting looks as though it were done by someone who either had Parkinson’s or who was highly intoxicated.  If it is decided that Kinkade was impaired when writing these documents, the dictates of his previous estate planning done with his estranged wife Nanette would most likely be enforced.

In the estate plan Kinkade created, he named Nanette and Windermere Holding Company, who manages his artwork, as the executors of the estate.  These documents will be the center of the probate battle set to begin on August 13.  This looks to be a contentious, lengthy and very expensive probate battle between Kinkade’s family and his girlfriend.  Only time will tell the outcome, but we will be sure to keep you up-to-date on the proceedings.

This occurrence should stand as an example to all of us that estate planning should be formally created and should be properly maintained.  If Kinkade truly wanted to leave his assets to his girlfriend, he should have met with an attorney to have a current document created and to ensure his past estate plan was nullified.  Life changes constantly and it is important that your estate planning is kept current for your situation.  To create or review your estate planning documents, schedule a free consultation with one of our qualified estate planning attorneys.  Call 888.222.1328 to schedule your appointment today!

About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

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