When artist Thomas Kinkade, the famed "Painter of Light," died from an accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium in his California home back on April 6, he was living with his girlfriend of 18 months, Amy Pinto-Walsh. And while the artist's wife of 30 years, Nanette Kinkade, had filed for legal separation in April 2010, the couple were still legally married at the time of Thomas' death. This combination of facts has led to the inevitable - a legal battle over control of the late artist's multi-million dollar estate.
At the center of the legal dispute are two handwritten letters allegedly written by Thomas Kinkade in November and December 2011. According to those who have viewed copies of the letters, both are barely legible and appear to have been written by someone who was intoxicated or impaired in some other way. The first letter, dated November 18, 2011, states the following:
"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 second letter, dated December 11, 2011, states the following:
"I, Thomas Kinkade, hereby bequeath my house at 16342 Ridgecrest Avenue, Monte Sereno, CA to Amy Pinto in the event of my death. I also give the sum of $10,000,000 to Amy Pinto to be used for the establishment of the Thomas Kinkade Museum at 16324 Ridgecrest Ave., Monte Sereno, CA for the public in perpetuity of original art. This Statement is null and void if my relationship with Ms. Pinto ends as is defined by me in a future letter."
California is one of many states that recognize "holographic wills" - meaning wills that are written in the testator's own handwriting and signed by the testator - in some shape or form. A hearing is scheduled for July 2 in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, California, where the estate is being administered, to determine the validity of the handwritten letters and their legal effect, if any, on the disposition of Thomas Kinkade's estate, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.