(Source: By Julia Prodis Sulek, San Jose Mercury News, Calif. (MCT) A tug-of-war between the widow and girlfriend of the late artist Thomas Kinkade heads back to court Monday, with each woman claiming that she should be in control of the multimillion dollar estate.
In the meantime, legal posturing continues over the validity of two barely legible handwritten wills that Amy Pinto-Walsh claims Kinkade wrote, leaving her his Monte Sereno mansion named “Ivy Gate” and $10 million to establish a museum of his artwork in the studio next door.
Lawyers for Nanette Kinkade, the artist’s wife of 30 years and mother of his four grown daughters, filed documents Friday contesting those wills. They include Kinkade’s original will and three “codicils,” or amendments to the will he made through 2007 — all relatively minor changes and none of them in handwriting so shaky they needed a typed translation to decipher.
All the while, Pinto-Walsh “refuses to move” out of the home, even though the estate continues to pay the mortgage and send her monthly bills for rent and maintenance, according to lawyers for the estate.
Kinkade, 54, died of lethal levels of alcohol and Valium on April 6 at the Monte Sereno home he shared with Pinto-Walsh. His descent into alcoholism and estrangement from his wife and daughters showed a dark and sad side to the famous artist, who made his fortune as the “Painter of Light,” selling copies of his paintings that depicted pastoral images, candlelit cottages and Christian symbols.
The court documents claim that Pinto-Walsh, 48, used her feminine wiles to take advantage of Kinkade, who was in the throws of alcoholism at the time he allegedly wrote the wills in November and December last year. Pinto-Walsh had been dating Kinkade for 18 months, and living with him at the Monte Sereno home for about a year, when he died. At the time, Kinkade had been separated from his wife for two years, but not divorced.
Pinto-Walsh “was able to and did control and influence the mind and actions of the Decedent to such an extent that Decedent did whatever Respondent instructed him to do,” according to the documents filed Friday. “Taking advantage of this trust and confidence, Respondent suggested and dictated the contents of the Documents and caused Decedent to draft and execute the Documents.”
The writing on the wills appeared so shaky that one handwriting expert, who briefly reviewed them, told this newspaper that the author “either had Parkinson’s disease or was three sheets to the wind.”
Lawyers for Pinto-Walsh say that those wills show the true wishes of the late artist, who had traveled with Pinto-Walsh to visit other museums to get ideas about how he wanted his own. They also contend that the Kinkades had already divided some of their assets when they separated in 2010, giving the artist full ownership of the Monte Sereno home. Pinto-Walsh believes the handwritten wills not only give her ownership of the house, studio and $10 million, but grant her the right to control $66 million of Kinkade’s fortune. That amount represents about half the artist’s worth, her lawyer says. The other half would go to Nanette Kinkade as her part of the community property.
In court documents filed earlier this summer, Pinto-Walsh claimed that while she and the artist had their problems, they planned to marry in Fiji as soon as Kinkade’s divorce was final.
“Amy and Thomas were deeply in love,” the documents said. “They both believed that fate brought them together to help each other through the difficult times they both encountered as well as to share their dreams of a life together.”
A trial over the authenticity of the wills likely won’t start for another six months or a year. In Monday’s hearing, arguments will center over who has authority to manage the estate — the widow, the girlfriend, or perhaps a neutral third-party.
“We believe that Amy Pinto should be the administrator, but in the alternative we want a neutral because we don’t want Nanette Kinkade or anyone else associated with the opposition to be in control of the estate while the litigation is pending,” said Douglas Dal Cielo, a San Jose lawyer representing Pinto-Walsh.
In the meantime, Pinto-Walsh continues to live in the Monte Sereno home on Ridgecrest Avenue valued at more than $7 million, according to documents filed by the estate.
“The owners deliver monthly invoices for rent and property maintenance, and will continue to do so as long as Ms. Walsh refuses to move from the residence,” Casas said in an emailed response to questions posed by this newspaper. “I reiterate that her first lawyer told me that he had advised his client to move from the residence shortly after Mr. Kinkade’s death. I believe that was good advice not accepted.”
Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at 408-278-3409.
©2012 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
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