Last month, we included a post on our Houston blog about the probate litigation surrounding Thomas Kinkade's estate. The dispute centers around who should have control of the late painter's assets. His estranged wife and girlfriend are the primary contenders in the matter. Kinkade's girlfriend, who was living with him at the time of his death, has brought forth two notes, purportedly in the artist's hand, which give money and a residence to the girlfriend.
The two sides had their most recent day in court last week, where a judge ruled on whether the case should continue on in probate court where the proceedings would be open to the public. Kinkade's estranged wife had sought to persuade the court to refer the case to arbitration, which would have allowed the family to settle the matter privately. The girlfriend, however, opposed that request, arguing that the probate proceedings should go on in open court.
The judge determined that the case would remain in probate court. He stated that he could not grant the estranged wife's request because he did not have enough information at hand. The two sides will next appear in court approximately one month from now on August 13.
While probate cases are quite interesting, August will mark the fourth month since Kinkade's death. In some instances, probate litigation can go on for quite some time, reducing the deceased person's estate and the patience of the family members. Through proper planning, it is possible to avoid most aspects of probate.
This planning includes updating estate planning documents as circumstances warrant it and making sure to follow all legal formalities when executing those updates. Part of the Kinkade dispute has resulted from the two handwritten notes. If Kinkade did in fact write them, he failed to observe traditional legal formalities in their creation, which has spawned some doubt as to their authenticity.
Source: Associated Press, "Dispute over Thomas Kinkade's estate to remain public for now," July 2, 2012.