SAN JOSE, Calif. — A legal appeal filed this week by the estate of Thomas Kinkade is further delaying a trial to determine whether the late artist’s estranged wife or his girlfriend should control his vast fortune.
In the meantime, the ownership of the Monte Sereno mansion where Kinkade’s girlfriend of 18 months continues to live, a home called “Ivy Gate” where Kinkade died, remains in dispute. Last month, lawyers for Kinkade’s widow, Nanette, sent a letter to Pinto-Walsh saying that the mortgage was “in default” and that her legal claims were preventing the estate from selling the residence. It’s uncertain whether the mortgage has been paid since.
“There needs to be some person in charge,” Pinto-Walsh’s lawyer, Douglas Dal Cielo, said Wednesday. “If the parties are fighting, someone needs to maintain the status quo, get the bills paid and maintain the property.”
A hearing set in probate court for Monday to determine who should administer the estate will likely be postponed until sometime this fall. Lawyers for Kinkade’s widow didn’t return calls Wednesday.
But on Tuesday, they filed court documents appealing a Santa Clara County Superior Court ruling that denied her request to resolve the conflict in private arbitration hearings. Judge Thomas Cain ruled earlier this month in favor of Pinto-Walsh, deciding that the case belongs in probate court, where the proceedings are open to the public. Pinto-Walsh claims her reputation has been so maligned by lawyers for the estate calling her a gold-digger that she should be able to redeem herself in public.
At the heart of the conflict is the validity of two barely legible handwritten wills that Pinto-Walsh claims Kinkade wrote to her, bequeathing her his mansion, his art studio next door and $10 million to establish a museum at the studio of his original artwork.
She also claims she should administer $66 million worth of his estate — estimated at about half the value of his entire worth. The other half, according Pinto-Walsh’s lawyers, would be considered the “community property” owed his widow.
Thomas and Nanette Kinkade had been married 20 years and raised four daughters before they separated in 2010. In their separation papers obtained by this newspaper, the couple agreed that the Monte Sereno house would be the sole property of Thomas Kinkade. Nanette Kinkade and their daughters moved into a house in neighboring Los Gatos. The couple never divorced.
As the case is litigated, he said, suspicions mount from either side about the security and disposition of Kinkade’s belongings. “Obviously, there’s distrust by both sides,” he said.
Kinkade, 54, died the morning of April 6 after a night of heavy drinking and popping Valium. Relatives acknowledged that Kinkade was an alcoholic and though he made strides in sobering up, he relapsed shortly before his death.
Kinkade was known as the “Painter of Light” for his bucolic images of moonlit meadows, thatched roof cottages and candlelit lamp posts. He made millions by selling touched-up copies of his originals, opening a string of galleries to sell them and licensing his art for calendars and coffee mugs. The company asserts that a Kinkade painting hangs in one of 20 American homes.
Lawyers for estate of artist Thomas Kinkade file appeal
Julia Prodis Sulek
July 26, 2012
San Jose Mercury News