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Sacramento Estate Planning Attorney

Thomas Kinkade estate battle ends in silence

Our California readers may have read about what initially appeared to be an imminent and vicious court battle between the wife of deceased painter Thomas Kinkade and the woman who was his live-in girlfriend at the time of his death. Kinkade, whose paintings and licensing netted him millions of dollars, had not divorced his estranged wife, but also allegedly left most of his estate to his girlfriend in the form of two hand-scrawled wills of controversial origin.

California has often recognized handwritten, or holographic, wills, so long as they can be verified. But, the court would also have had to determine that Kinkade was of sound mind and had testamentary capacity when he wrote the wills. Given Kinkade's well-documented alcoholism and death by overdose, this may have been a challenge.

Now, the tabloid potential of this estate battle seems to have vanished, as both sides have come to an out-of-court agreement that decides the matter privately, and apparently precludes either party from discussing the details of the settlement.

The two sides had been engaged in a contentious battle since the painter's death in April of 2012, with the girlfriend claiming his handwritten wills entitled her to his massive residence and at least $10 million in order to set up a museum of his works. She had refused to leave their estate after his death, and though attorneys for Kinkade's wife couldn't successfully evict her, they ordered a full-time security guard to watch the premises and make sure she didn't steal anything.

So, what could have been an interesting court decision on the validity of his handwritten wills ends in a quiet, if hostile, handshake. There were no fireworks, but this story shows the importance of having a verifiable and recently updated will.

Source: Contra Costa Times "Secret deal ends girlfriend-wife feud over painter Thomas Kinkade's estate," Julia Prodis Sulek, Dec. 20, 2012

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My Sacramento law practice, Michael A. Sawamura, Attorney at Law, focuses on wills, trusts and estate planning law in addition to business law and corporate defense services. My clients include professionals, government employees, small businesses, blue-collar workers and national corporations.

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