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Contentious estate administration: Kinkade and the girlfriend

The estate of Thomas Kinkade, including original artworks left by the artist, is said to be valued at just over $66 million. With that amount of money at stake, an estate administration battle is currently raging between the artist's family and his former girlfriend.

As many in Texas know, estate administration in cases of estates both large and small can be very contentious. In the Kinkade matter, the battles are being waged between the wife of the artist and the artist's girlfriend, who lived with him at the time of his death. The most recent suit came to fruition as a result of a confidentiality agreement purportedly signed by the parties prior to the artist's death.

The artist's estranged wife, who was legally separated from him at the time of his death, asked the court to rule that all proceedings in the estate administration be completed by private arbitration. Recently a judge denied that request, holding that all issues in the estate matter will be public for now.

One of the main concerns at issue in this estate administration litigation is the validity of handwritten documents left by the artist. The content of the notes are disputed, but the girlfriend claims that Kinkade intended to leave his mansion and $10 million to her to create a museum of his work. Kinkade's wife is arguing that she should have complete control of the artist's estate. It will be interesting to see what happens with this case.

One thing that should be taken away from Thomas Kinkade's estate administration dispute is the importance of having a solid estate plan in place. While no one likes to think of it, sudden and unexpected death can and does happen. Even though it may never happen to you, it's best to be prepared just in case. Not only does this mean creating a well-rounded will, but also remembering to update it when you go through major life changes, like marriage, divorce or having children.

Source: Associated Press, "Dispute over Thomas Kinkade's estate to remain public for now," July 2, 2012

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