Since so many people go through life without any estate planning documents, some folks finally decide to take the matter into their own hands, quite literally. About 11 years ago, there was an interesting story circulating about a couple of handwritten wills, and we will revisit it here.
Thomas Kinkade was a successful artist that called himself the “Painter of Light.” He was quite prolific, and he made a lot of money, but he was also a prolific imbiber of alcohol.
In 2012, his drinking turned tragic when he passed away from “acute intoxication” after mixing alcohol with diazepam, which is the generic name for Valium.
He was married at the time of his death, but he had been estranged from his wife, Nanette, for about two years. She had filed for divorce, but it was not finalized at the time of his passing.
Kinkade had been living with this girlfriend, Amy Pinto-Walsh, for about a year and a half before the fateful day, and his wife would not allow her to attend the funeral. She also filed a breach of confidentiality lawsuit against Pinto-Walsh for good measure.
It would seem as though Pinto-Walsh was going to be left out in the cold, but she produced two holographic wills that were supposedly drawn up by Thomas Kinkade. They were not witnessed, so they are considered to be “holographic wills.”
These wills are recognized in about half of the states, and they are legal in California where Kinkade lived and died.
The validity of the documents was brought into question because they were hardly legible, and it would seem as though a professional fine artist would have better handwriting. Of course, a professional painter that is extremely drunk may not be able to write very well.
One of the wills left Pinto-Walsh $10 million, the home that she and Kinkade lived in, and another property. The second one was the same with regard to the real properties, but it stated that the $10 million should be used to create a Thomas Kinkade museum.
Both parties ultimately agreed to a settlement, so the case was not decided in court. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
The Importance of Proper Planning
A multimillionaire that has an income-producing business that will continue to earn money after he is gone should definitely work with an attorney to put a plan in place. This is especially true when the person is married, and they are in a committed relationship with someone else.
With the appropriate legal counsel, he could have created an ironclad plan that could not be seriously questioned. Even if you are not extremely wealthy, do-it-yourself estate planning is very risky business, so you are making a sound investment when you engage legal assistance.
Legal Requirements for a Valid Will
While we are on the subject, we should look at the steps that must be taken to execute a legally valid will. The first order of business is to decide what property is going to be transferred through the terms of the will, and you have to determine how you will be distributing the assets.
An executor is the individual that will handle the estate administration tasks, so you have to name an executor when you draw up a will. It should be someone with administrative and financial acumen, and you should make sure that your nominee is willing to assume the role.
If you have dependent children, you can name a guardian when you are creating your will. Once you have this framework established, you actually draw up the will, it has to be signed in front of two witnesses.
The witnesses must sign the will in front of each other after they witness you sign the will, or they can sign it when they witness you acknowledging that the will is yours. In California, a will does not have to be notarized to be valid
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