Thomas Kinkade was a relatively young man. At age 54, he no doubt thought he had time to create more art and enjoy life with his girlfriend, to whom he was engaged. One of the things standing in the way of that enjoyment was the fact that he was not yet divorced from his wife of 30 years.
When a person dies who is separated but not yet divorced, the estranged spouse may claim the next of kin status — as well as claim the estate. When Thomas Kinkade died in Los Gatos, California, he left behind an estranged wife and four children, and a girlfriend with two scribbled documents she claims are his last will and testament. The disputed will and estate are worth at least $66.3 million.
News reports state that Kinkade died at the home he shared with his girlfriend. He reportedly died of a lethal dose of alcohol combined with valium. He had reportedly been drinking a lot in recent months and that alcohol usage may reflect on his state of mind when he allegedly wrote out two hand-written wills on note paper.
There are two wills that the girlfriend offered as proof that she is to inherit much of the estate. They are dated Nov. 18, 2011, and Dec. 11, 2011. In the November will he wrote, “I, Thomas Kinkade, being of sound mind and body do hereby bequeath to Amy Pinto Walsh $10,000,000 in cash from my corporate policy and I give her the house at 16324 and 16342 Ridgecrest Avenue for her security.”
The December will says essentially the same thing, but adds that the $10 million should be used to create a museum for his art.
The estranged wife is fighting these two hand-written wills in court. She has indicated a willingness to go through mediation to solve the issue, but the girlfriend has indicated she wants her day in court.
It seems as though Thomas Kinkade is like Whitney Houston in that they each died young, and without a well-thought out and current will. Tragedy can strike at any time. Whether your estate is $66 million or $66,000, it is a good idea to have a will as part of an overall estate planning strategy.
Source: Boston Herald, “Thomas Kinkade girlfriend seeks to administer $66.3 million from artist’s estate,” Julia Prodis Sulek, June 12, 2012