The controversy surrounding the estate of painter Thomas Kinkade, including his palatial mansion in Monte Sereno, California, will continue as the court begins probate proceedings early next month. Among the issues at the heart of the controversy are the validity of claims made by Kinkade's live-in girlfriend and the documents that she claims express Kinkade's desires for the division of his property. The case provides for excellent celebrity drama, but also serves as a cautionary tale for those who may not recognize the advantages of avoiding probate.
Kinkade's partner has produced two hand-written notes that she says indicate Kinkade's wish to leave her his mansion, as well as $10 million for the foundation of an art museum within the home. These notes, however, are written in unsteady script and are nearly illegible. Assuming Kinkade wrote the notes, there are still questions of whether he was of sound mind when he wrote them or whether he suffered from any undue influence from his girlfriend.
Kinkade also had a will and estate plan with his estranged wife, neither of which mentioned the plans with Kinkade's girlfriend. With the sets of documents in direct conflict, it is up to the court to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to show that the scribbled notes constitute legitimate and valid estate-planning documents.
In addition, Kinkade's girlfriend wishes to administer a $66 million portion of his estate, and she is suing the estate for violating a medical directive that gave her the power of attorney over his health care decisions and the final disposition of his body. The latter issue will be decided through arbitration while the probate case begins July 2.
Source: San Jose Mercury News, "Thomas Kinkade girlfriend loses effort to defend reputation," Julia Prodis Sulek, June 15, 2012.