Jun 15, 2012

"Painter of Light" leaves a dark legacy

His paintings depict scenes of peace and beauty. The legal mess he leaves behind is anything but.

Thomas Kinkade, aka "The Painter of Light," was found dead in his California home at age 54 on April 6, after a night of heavy drinking and valium use. He and Nanette, his wife of thirty years with whom he had four children, were in the process of divorcing. At the time of his death, the painter had been living with his personal assistant/girlfriend, Amy Pinto-Walsh. It is Pinto-Walsh who found his body and called 911. 

Kinkade's estate is worth millions. By some estimates, one out of every 20 American homes displays his art. 

Kinkade left behind a joint estate plan with his wife, a plan that was never modified and makes no mention of Pinto-Walsh. However, Pinto-Walsh has produced two notes allegedly penned by Kinkade last year. The notes request that she get his hillside mansion, as well as $10 million for the establishment of a museum to house his art. As shown below, the notes are barely legible, and lawyers for Kinkade's estate question whether he wrote them, and if he did, whether he was of sound mind or under undue influence when he did. 

The case goes to Probate Court July 2. Once again, we have a celebrity whose fortune, mixed with some ambiguous estate planning, has put his heirs in a tough legal spot. It will surely not be the last case of this nature, and it has lessons for all of us about the importance of sound estate planning 

Thomas Kinkade case: Handwritten notes

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