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Painter's widow, companion fight over estate

In life, painter Thomas Kinkade's works evoked images of peace and prayer. In death, his name now is linked to bitterness and a battle that has turned into litigation between two women who both say they are his rightful heir.

This case should be of great interest to Miami-area residents, given the artist's popularity throughout the United States. Kinkade, who died April 6, left behind an estate of more than $60 million. His works are said to hang in one of every 20 homes in the U.S.

At the time of his death, Kinkade was separated from his wife of 28 years and fighting a battle with alcoholism. Now, his wife is fighting the woman who contends that she and the artist planned to marry.

Since Kinkade's death, his girlfriend has presented to the court two handwritten wills that purport to leave her $10 million, his house and his studio. The will also instructs her to build a museum in his honor.

Meanwhile, his wife has accused the woman, who lived with Kinkade, of being a gold digger and possibly an industrial spy. They will meet in probate court, where a judge will decide who will administer the Kinkade estate.

His legal affairs were murky the past few years. Kinkade's wife filed for legal separation in April 2010. Shortly after, one of Kinkade's companies fell into bankruptcy, and he lost a lawsuit to people who had owned an art gallery.

In 2010, he met his girlfriend and by December 2011, he had written two new wills, according to the woman. They are short and difficult to decipher, but the girlfriend says they leave a significant part of his estate to her.

It will be up to a judge to sort through all of these issues. Mrs. Kinkade has asked that all proceedings pertaining to the probate occur in a closed courtroom.

For people with considerable assets like Kinkade, however, transparency would have been best. Had he entrusted his will to a capable executor and made his wishes clear, many issues could have been prevented.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Thomas Kinkade's wife, girlfriend battle over his estate," Maria L. LaGanga, July 1, 2012

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