Handwritten WillsThomas Kinkade was a self-named “painter of light”, whose mass-produced works of art are estimated to grace one in every twenty American homes. Following his untimely death on April 6, 2012, however, his most famous pieces are turning out to be a couple of holographic wills he left to his girlfriend of 18 months, Amy Pinto-Walsh. The wills bequeath Pinto-Walsh with his house and property next door “for her security”, along with $10 million dollars to be used in creating a museum that would showcase his works.

The most interesting thing about the wills is the way they were written. They are so ineligible, a handwriting expert concluded that the writer was either suffering from Parkinson’s disease or “was three sheets to the wind.” While there is nothing to suggest that he suffered from Parkinson’s, it is likely that the skilled painter – who died by “acute intoxication” from Valium and alcohol – was drunk at the time the wills were written.

Despite the poor handwriting, the wills are signed and dated at the end, and therefore, valid in California. Kinkade’s estranged widow, Nanette, seeks to prove that he was under undue influence by Pinto-Walsh and that he was not of sound mind at the time the wills were written, given his drunkenness.

While the outcome is yet to be seen, one thing is certain – it promises to be a lengthy, costly, and nasty probate between Pinto-Walsh and Kinkade’s widow. The expensive, public fight could have been avoided if only Kinkade had updated the formal estate plan he had crafted earlier with his estranged wife. Kinkade had mentioned to his lawyer that he wanted to leave something for Pinto-Walsh, who further claims that they were to be married once his divorce was final. Everyone involved is now paying the price for the shortcut he took in leaving behind the holographic wills.

A will and trust can be updated even while divorce proceedings are in progress. Do not wait to update your estate planning documents after live event changes. After all, “no one is promised tomorrow” – as proven by Kinkade, who died suddenly at the age of 54.

The full article, which was posted on Forbes last July 9, can be found here.

(Image courtesy of Kriss Szkurlatowski)