Most people do not have any estate planning documents in place, but most of them know that it is something that they should get around to at some point. There are those that look for simple solutions, and they decide to get out a pen and paper and draw up a will by hand.
A will that is handwritten that has not been witnessed is called a holographic will. These wills are recognized in about half of the states, and California is one of them.
This being stated, there are some good reasons why you should steer clear of the holographic will, and the Thomas Kinkade estate saga is a case in point.
Barely Legible Handwriting
Kinkade was a prolific artist, and he sold a lot of his work. He died in 2012 of acute intoxication after he combined diazepam, which is generic Valium, with a copious amount of alcohol.
At the time of his death, he was worth about $70 million. Kinkade was living with his girlfriend, Amy Pinto-Walsh, at the time, but he was still legally married to his wife, Nanette Kinkade.
Nanette had filed for divorce about two years before his passing, and she would not allow Kinkade’s beau to attend his funeral. Pinto-Walsh was persona non grata, and Nanette Kinkade filed a breach of confidentiality lawsuit against her to punctuate her message.
Amy Pinto-Walsh was not without legal recourse of her own, because she was in possession of two holographic wills that were allegedly drawn up and signed by Thomas Kinkade. The documents were very difficult to read because of the extremely poor handwriting.
Experts determined that a professional painter would not write in this manner – unless they were very intoxicated, so that was the assumption. In the first will, Kinkade left Pinto-Walsh his home, a property next door, and $10 million.
The second document clarified the purpose of the $10 million. Kinkade wanted the money to be used by Pinto-Walsh to establish a museum that would display his artwork.
Kinkade lived and died in California, and you have to be of sound mind to execute a legally binding will in California (and every other state for that matter). However, a person could potentially know exactly what they are doing when they are drunk.
It is certainly a shade of gray, but in the end, the court did not have to make a determination. The two parties reached a “secret settlement” agreement, and the matter was closed.
Requirements for a Legal Will in California
In order to execute a legally binding will in California, you have to be at least 18 years of age, but an exception is made for emancipated minors. As we have stated, you have to be of sound mind to create a valid will.
The will can be handwritten, but it has to be a hard copy. Videos, audio recordings, and electronic files are not acceptable.
You have to sign the will in front of two witnesses, and the witnesses must sign the will at the same time as one another. The witnesses should be completely objective, so they should not be people that are named as beneficiaries in the will.
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Legal counsel is a must for someone like Thomas Kinkade that had millions of dollars, an ongoing income producing enterprise, and a complicated family situation.
He could have made sure that his museum was established, and he could have provided for Pinto-Walsh in a legally binding manner with no need for negotiations.
This being stated, even if you are not a multimillionaire with a significant other and a spouse, you should work with a Los Angeles estate planning attorney to develop a custom crafted plan.
We can gain understanding of your situation and your objectives and provide recommendations so you can make fully informed decisions. At the end of the process, you will go forward with a rock-solid estate plan that is ideal for you and your family.
If you are ready to get started, you can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 310-337-7696.