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Estate of Thomas Kinkade, "Painter of Light," settles will dispute outside court

An ongoing legal dispute over the estate of famous painter Thomas Kinkade has been settled, putting an end to months of legal challenges. Thomas Kinkade, known for his unique painting style involving generous use of light, died in April, leaving behind an unclear estate plan for his family to deal with. At the time of his death, Kinkade was estranged from his wife of 30 years, and the two were working out a divorce. His live-in girlfriend was brought into the dispute by virtue of two holographic wills Kinkade left behind.

A holographic will, as our readers may know, is one which is entirely handwritten and signed by the "testator," the one leaving property behind. Such wills are valid under certain conditions, but can complicate matters when there are previous wills in the picture. The first of the handwritten wills was dated November 2011, and left Kinkade's girlfriend $10 million and some property, while the second one, dated December 2011, specified that the money was to be used to establish a museum to publicly display his works.

Kinkade's girlfriend petitioned a probate court to enforce the holographic wills, but his wife opposed that request with a formal will predating the handwritten ones. That will named his wife as executor of his estate.

The Kinkade estate dispute involved other factors, of course. Most notable was the suggestion that Kinkade may have been drunk at the time he executed the holographic wills, since they were written sloppily. While sloppy handwriting in and of itself wouldn't make a holographic will invalid, it could raise the question of whether the testator had capacity to execute the will or may have been under undue influence. It was known that Kinkade had struggles with alcohol.

Unfortunately, the details of the settlement are secret, since the dispute was settled outside court and the estate has not made any public comments. The positive side of this is the Kinkade estate will save the expense and embarrassment of continuing in court with the fight.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Legal battle over Thomas Kinkade estate settled," David Ng, December 24, 2012

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