When he died in April of this year, painter Thomas Kinkade left a legacy of popular paintings. An estimated one out of 20 American homes owns a copy of his work. His multimillion dollar estate is now being contested over in a California probate court. The parties fighting over his legacy include representative of Mr. Kinkade’s company and his wife on one side, with his live-in girlfriend on the other.
At the time of his death, Mr. Kinkade had been living with Amy Pinto-Walsh, his girlfriend and personal assistant. Ms. Pinto-Walsh is now claiming that Mr. Kinkade left behind a handwritten will that left her as the inheritor of his home as well as the recipient of $10 million in order to start a Thomas Kinkade museum in that home.
Representatives of Mr. Kinkade’s company and his wife are claiming that Ms. Pinto-Walsh is bound by the terms of a confidentiality agreement she signed as part of her employment as Mr. Kinkade’s personal assistant. That agreement, they claim, obligates Ms. Pinto-Walsh to have her case heard in front of a private arbitrator and not a probate court.
The California probate court judge has yet to decide on whether the case will be heard in probate court, but it has also scheduled a hearing to determine the validity of the handwritten notes that Ms. Pinto-Walsh claims Mr. Kinkade left behind as his last will and testament. The handwritten notes are almost impossible to read, but California does allow for handwritten wills, also known as holographic wills. The hearing to determine the validity of these documents will be held in July.