An estimated one in every twenty homes contains a copy of the work of Thomas Kinkade–the painter best known for traditional works of gardens, cottages, streams, and small town centers. Considering the mass marking and popularity of his work, Kinkade was able to acquire a considerable fortunate over the years. Unfortunately, Kinkade died this April at the age of 54. Like many others in his situation, disagreement has reigned in the resolution of his estate.
Kinkade was married, but his wife filed for divorce two years before his death. He has four children with his wife. For the last year and a half before his death he lived in his home with his girlfriend.
Kinkade’s live-in girlfriend has been feuding with his wife and children since the death. According to a report in the Mercury News, the estate planning dispute centers around two handwritten wills allegedly created in the months before the passing. Both wills are apparently in bad shape and “barely legible.” The girlfriend argues that the wills leave the home to her and establish a $10 million museum at the next door studio. The woman’s lawyers explain that he had a hand tremor as a result of alcohol withdrawal, which caused the handwritten wills to have legibility problems. Kinkade’s wife contests the will, and court hearing on the matter are set for later this year.
However, problems have arisen in the interim. In earlier hearings, the court allowed the girlfriend to stay in the home, but she was forced to pay $11,000 a month in rent. A request to lower the rent to $8,500 a month was recently rejected by the court. The judge reasoned that the extra expense was necessary because a security guard had to be posted around that clock at all times. The security guard is there to protect the artwork and furniture in the home apparently worth millions of dollars.
But the feud gets more confusing. At the most recent court hearing, the girlfriend claimed that her security was at risk, because of suspicions happenings at the house. Her car has apparently been vandalized, the doors of the home have been tampered with, and someone may have broken into the attic at the home. The woman has concerns that Kinkade’s family may be involved because they apparently know the alarm code and security passwords to the home.
In any event, it is unclear how the case will ultimately be resolved, but the property issues will no doubt hinge on the court’s determination of the validity (or not) of the handwritten wills.
All of this is a reminder of the mass confusion and accusations that often fill the void between a death and the final resolution of one’s estate. Using tool that streamline this whole process, like trusts, is a way that matters can be settled quickly without drawn out disputes.
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