In recent local news, famous artist, Thomas Kinkade passed away. During his marriage, Kinkade executed an estate plan with his wife, however, though legally separated; Kinkade did not revoke or amend his estate plan. Instead, after engaging in a new relationship, he executed holographic instruments leaving a sizeable amount, including his home, studio and $10 million to set up a museum in Kinkade’s honor to his current girlfriend. Now after his passing, his wife and girlfriend are left to dispute who should represent his estate and who shall resceive his $60 million estate.
While this case may seem out of touch with reality as most decedents do not leave such a large estate, the fact is that even with a relatively small estate, the battle over inconsistent and conflicting estate plans is inevitable if not cleared up before death. Had Kinkade intended for his estate to go to his wife according to his original estate plan, perhaps he could have executed a Codicil to his Will leaving specific bequests to his girlfriend. Alternatively, if it wasn’t his intent to provide for his wife at his death, Kinkade should have revoked his current estate plan during his separation and not waited until his divorce was finalized. The difficulty now is that nobody truly knows his intentions. His wife, girlfriend and the court are left to decipher between his original documents and his holographic instruments, to which the validity is being questioned by handwriting analysts as being executed by an incompetent man.
Handwritten documents, while easy to execute, may or may not be held up at death. Also, handwritten notes on your original documents, does not sufficiently amend the documents. It is advised to revisit your estate plan every three years and execute formal amendments to ensure that at your death, there is no question as to your intent.