Los Angeles residents may remember the recent passing of 54-year-old American artist, Thomas Kinkade, "Painter of Light." The man made his millions by creating works of romantic realism, and then reproducing them and licensing the images for other products.
The man met a troubled end, struggling with alcoholism and eventually dying form a lethal mix of alcohol and Valium. He separated from his wife in 2010 and six months later had a new live-in girlfriend. The ongoing probate litigation surrounding his will and estate have flitted in and out of headlines and taken some bizarre twists.
The core of the dispute rests on two handwritten, barely discernable wills that the late artist's live-in girlfriend claims he wrote before his passing. She contends that the man was experiencing alcohol withdrawal, explaining the shaky nature of the penmanship. According to the girlfriend and her representation, the artist was advised to plan and document his will this way instead of the tradition estate planning route.
This method is not advised. Not only can the authenticity of handwritten wills be called into question, but such a will can result in prolonged probate litigation, causing a nightmare for beneficiaries, and possibly meaning an individual's final wishes aren't delivered as they intended.
According to the girlfriend and her representation, the wills indicate that Kinkade bequeathed his 6,000-square-foot home in Monet Sereno and $10 million for a museum, to his girlfriend. Representation on behalf of the estate is fighting to prevent this from happening. The litigation appears to be far from over. Estate planning conducted with the aid of experienced legal counsel can avoid such contention and ensure an individual's wishes are followed upon their passing.
Source: San Jose Mercury News, "Thomas Kinkade's girlfriend to pay $11,000 a month to stay in artist's mansion," Julia Prodis Sulek, Sept. 17, 2012