Updating your estate plan is critical, especially after major life events. On Wall Street tells us the sad story of artist Thomas Kinkade, who failed to actually update his estate plan despite an apparent desire to do so. On Wall Street has the story:
Legacy expert attorneys Danielle and Andy Mayoras say the untimely death and shoddy estate planning efforts of renowned artist Thomas Kinkade serve as a prime example of why clients should update their wills on a regular – and sober – basis.
It’s estimated that one in 20 American homes have a Thomas Kinkade painting hanging on their walls. The self-proclaimed “Painter of Light” turned his gift of rendering landscapes and other works of art into a tremendous commercial endeavor.
In fact, his numerous corporate holdings reportedly topped $100 million in annual sales some years, primarily due to mass reproduction of his works.
But the “Painter of Light” was not without his demons, primarily alcoholism and a failed marriage. He died suddenly at age 54 in April, an early and untimely demise reportedly caused by “acute intoxication” from alcohol and valium.
His wife, Nanette, had filed for divorce two years before and the couple was legally separated. Kinkade died while living with his girlfriend of 18 months, Amy Pinto-Walsh.
The girlfriend and estranged wife began fighting almost immediately after Kinkade died. Pinto-Walsh was kept from the funeral and slapped with a lawsuit for breach of a confidentiality agreement. The family wanted her to remain quiet and not share any personal details with the media.
Pinto-Walsh did not go away quietly. She went to probate court to enforce two handwritten wills (called “holographic” wills) that she says Kinkade wrote for her benefit in late 2011.
These two handwritten wills are interesting, to say the least. The first one, dated Nov. 11, 2011, bequeaths to Pinto-Walsh the sum of $10 million dollars “from my corporate policy” and his house and property next door “for her security.”
The second will, dated Dec. 11, 2011, includes both of these same bequests to Pinto-Walsh, but further clarifies that the $10 million gift is to be used by Pinto-Walsh to create a museum to show the public his works.
But what is most interesting about these two purported wills is not what they say, but how they are written. They are so illegible that calling them “chicken scratch” may be deemed offensive to chickens. This from a man who left behind an estate reportedly worth more than $66 million because he was so gifted in painting popular works of art.