Court orders Thomas Kinkade’s former girlfriend to pay $11,000 a month in rent to Kinkade’s estate

The probate process continues to unfold in the administration of the estate of American painter Thomas Kinkade. This week, lawyers from both sides argued in court about the amount of rent that Amy Pinto-Walsh (Mr. Kinkade’s girlfriend at the time of his death on April 6, 2012) must pay to Mr. Kinkade’s estate. The judge set the amount at $11,000 per month, without utilities, dated retroactively to July 1, 2012. The property is under 24 hour surveillance. The judge added the security costs to the rental estimate to arrive at the $11,000 figure.

I wrote earlier blog posts about the issues surrounding Mr. Kinkade’s Last Will(s) and the other issues that have come up in the administration of his estate. These issues will be decided in future hearings.

Most estates will never own mansions that require 24-hour security details; however most estates will own interests in real property of some sort. These property interests can lead to all sorts of disputes, including fights like the one that is playing out in the administration of Mr. Kinkade’s estate.

One reason that real estate can be a cause of confusion is that it can be owned in a number of different ways – individually, jointly (with or without survivorship rights), in trust, or by an entity like an LLC. The picture has been further complicated in Oregon by the adoption of the transfer-on-death deed (“TOD Deed”) in early 2012. The TOD Deed allows a property owner to record testamentary transfer instructions on the deed itself. At the owner’s death, the property transfers subject to the instructions on the deed, not as directed under the owner’s Last Will or trust. With all of the different ways real property can transfer, confusion is common.

Revocable living trusts and Last Wills usually include provisions to deal with the distribution of real estate that an individual owns at death, and some of these documents allow for tenants to continue then-existing rental agreements. If a person dies without a Last Will, the property will likely pass to the decedent’s heirs at his or her death. Estates occasionally have to act as landlords and sometimes even evict tenants after a property owner has died. The best way to avoid problems with the administration of real estate is to plan properly by discussing all of your property interests (and their ownership) with your financial and legal advisors.

There are many lessons to be learned from the administration of Mr. Kinkade’s estate. Like many celebrities, Mr. Kinkade had complicated family relationships and a lot of money. Mr. Kinkade did not leave clear instructions for the handling of his affairs, and now the dirty laundry is being aired in public. History is littered with examples of celebrities who planned properly, those who planned poorly, and those who did not plan at all. Michael Walker and I will be discussing the lessons that can be learned by analyzing some of these examples at an upcoming seminar in our office. We will review the estates of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, "MCA" and others

If you would like to join us for a discussion about "Famous and Infamous Estates" from 7:30-9:00 am, on October 11, please rsvp by calling our office at (503) 226-2966 or by email at Light refreshments will be provided

Painter of light; writer of Wills?

The family of artist Thomas Kinkade is doing what many families do after the loss of a loved one (particularly when the loved one is wealthy): “lawyering up” to fight over the estate.

Mr. Kinkade was an American painter who passed away in April of 2012. He referred to himself as the Painter of Light and he was America’s most collected contemporary artist at the time of his death. Mr. Kinkade left behind an estate worth over $60 million, a wife from whom he was legally separated, and a girlfriend who had lived with him for more than a year.

A probate court in Santa Clara, California is now faced with the following arguments: In one corner is the decedent’s wife (from whom he was separated), who is arguing for the administration of the formal estate plan the couple had prepared during their marriage. In the other corner is the girlfriend, who has presented two handwritten wills to the court that leave the girlfriend Mr. Kinkade’s home, his studio and $10 million to establish a museum to display Mr. Kinkade’s paintings. Will these holographic (handwritten) wills stand up in court? Stay tuned, as that remains to be determined.

What is certain at this point is that Mr. Kinkade could have saved his family loads of unwanted publicity (and legal expenses) if he had executed a formal plan that outlined his wishes for the museum and the gifts to his girlfriend. Handwritten wills may hold up in some courts; however an estate plan is more likely to survive challenges if the family takes the time to execute proper documents in accordance with the appropriate state laws. Mr. Kinkade should have also been advised to formally amend or replace his estate planning documents as his relationship changed with his wife.

Properly executing and updating estate planning documents requires an investment of time and money. Improperly prepared documents may force family members into making far more substantial investments to protect their rights after we’re gone. 

You can find more on the Kinkade dispute here:–finance.html