The dispute over Thomas Kinkade's multimillion-dollar estate has come down to two barely legible wills that leave his girlfriend his mansion and $10 million, and three burning questions: did he write them? Was he coerced? And, finally, as the letters state, was he really of sound mind and body?
Writing your Last Will is a simple concept, right? Sometimes. Remember, your Last Will has to survive both you (the drafter) and, more importantly, it has to survive the scrutiny of those who will interpret it after you are gone.
Such is the tragic case of Thomas Kinkade, the artist known as the “Painter of Light.” As reported in an article titled “Validity of wills at center of dispute over artist Thomas Kinkade's estate” in the Sacramento Bee, not only did Kinkade have a Last Will, but he had three of them. The first Last Will is an older document favorable to his wife, written well before their estrangement and divorce proceedings. The latter two versions, however, are quite favorable to his live-in girlfriend of 18 months. As you can imagine, the tension is high. The legal fees could get high, as well.
Here’s the rub: the latter two Last Wills are handwritten and crudely constructed. On the other hand, the initial Last Will is even, clean, and deliberate. Under California law, a handwritten Last Will, even if it’s not notarized, can be valid. Regardless, if Kinkade had prepared the handwritten Last Wills while he was drunk and unduly influenced, then he may not have had the requisite capacity to create such documents.
If Kincade was an alcoholic (according to the coroner, Kinkaid died of a lethal dose of alcohol), does that mean either of the latter Last Wills is invalid? It’s not clear. Alcoholics, and those with different types of addictions, can act with the required intent when it comes to estate planning.
In the end, the Kinkade estate is likely to be a spectacle. Expect to see a parade of witnesses, expert and otherwise, as his ex-wife and girlfriend fight over the $10 million and mansion Kinkade left behind.
Reference: The Sacramento Bee (June 19, 2012) “Validity of wills at center of dispute over artist Thomas Kinkade's estate”