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California probate takes up validity of Kinkcade wills

Artist Thomas Kinkcade died of an alcohol overdose last April. He left multiple wills, including two holographic or handwritten wills that are causing a legal dispute. A probate court judge must decide if two letters Kinkcade wrote are valid and whether a court battle will take place.

Kinkcade and his wife were estranged, but not divorced. The artist lived with another woman at the time of his death. A lawyer for Kinkcade's girlfriend claims the holographic wills supercede an earlier will Kinkcade signed with his wife.

In the first letter written in the November before his death, Kinkcade allegedly bequeathed $10 million to his girlfriend. A second letter in December changed the plan. The will left a house to the live-in companion and $10 million to the creation of a public art museum containing his works.

Attorneys for the Kinkcade estate, including Thomas's estranged wife and the artist's holding company, say the letters do not qualify as wills.

Kinkcade was an alcoholic, which estate attorneys say influenced the artist's ability to be of sound mind and body. Handwriting experts proposed that the 54-year-old artist was incapacitated, either mentally or physically, when the letters were written.

The lawyer representing Kinkcade's girlfriend contends alcoholism does not legally eliminate an individual's mental capacity. Handwritten wills are acceptable under California law, provided the writer had capacity and no undue influence at the time they are written.

The estate attorney said that Kinkcade did approach his lawyers about leaving something to his girlfriend. The lawyer stated that whatever that "something" was did not include items listed in the letters.

Kinkcade and his girlfriend were together for 18 months. The girlfriend claimed the couple planned to marry following the finalization of Kinkcade's divorce. Kinkcade was married 30 years and shared four daughters with his wife, Nanette, who assisted Kinkcade with his art businesses.

Source: sacbee.com, "Validity of wills at center of dispute over artist Thomas Kinkcade's estate," Julia Prodis Sulek, June 19, 2012

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