A judge ordered Friday that a binding arbitration panel will privately hear the claims of the late artist Thomas Kinkade's girlfriend that his estate violated a .
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Leslie C. Nichols ruled the validity of a will not be litigated in open court but heard in a private binding arbitration proceeding.
The judge also ruled Pinto-Walsh's claim that the estate violated the medical directive when she was prevented from arranging for the disposition of his remains will also be decided by the three-judge arbitration panel outside of the public view.
"Both these issues will now be decided by the arbitration panel and not the court," Pinto-Walsh's attorney Douglas Dal Cielo said.
Pinto-Walsh, however, will still appear for a public hearing in Santa Clara County Probate Court July 2 when a claim regarding the validity of so-called holographic wills will be heard.
Kinkade died the morning of April 6, setting off a legal battle between his estate and Pinto-Walsh.
Her attorneys contend Kinkade, in a two barely legible hand-written notes, gave Pinto-Walsh an opulent mansion in the small enclave of Monte Sereno, next to Los Gatos, a studio next door and $10 million to run a museum that would showcase his original artwork.
Kathleen M. Blomquist, a Kinkade estate spokeswoman, emailed Los Gatos Patch a response to the judge's ruling, stating that Kinkade and his wife Nanette initiated and approved a joint estate plan that was final and up-to-date at the time of his death.
"The estate is subject to this formal, written, and irrevocable plan, and it will contest any other purported estate planning documents," Blomquist wrote in the email.
"Ms. Pinto-Walsh signed a confidentiality agreement with an arbitration clause in February 2011 at the express request of Mr. Kinkade who was concerned about his daughters' privacy, and we are pleased that the court will allow the estate to carry out his wishes by granting our petition to compel arbitration," Blomquist said.
Update: 3:30 p.m., June 15: Dal Cielo said Friday it would take a minimum of between four and six months for all the claims related to the Kinkade estate to be decided by the courts.
"Normal practice is to have everything done in open court and they (Kinkade estate officials) filed those declarations that tarnished her personal and professional reputation and now they want everything to be confidential," Dal Cielo lamented. "I don't think that's equitable, but I understand and appreciate the court's ruling."
Dal Cielo continued: "I don't consider it a defeat. It just means all the evidence will be heard in a different forum."
For Pinto-Walsh's attorneys, the big issue is the validity of the wills, which will be heard in open probate court, Dal Cielo said.
Asked how much his client believes she's entitled to from the painter's estate, Dal Cielo said she is due the $10 million supposedly referenced in the wills and $66 million in assets that he wanted to additionally give to her, including artwork.
Kinkade, one of the most profilic and successful American painters of modern art, died