Attorneys representing the Thomas Kinkade estate have appealed a
A three-justice Sixth District Court of Appeal panel will now hear the controversial matter, considering briefs filed in the coming weeks, and will most likely schedule a hearing with a decision forthcoming sometime in the future, attorneys said.
The appeal, filed July 24, is in response to Judge Thomas W. Cain's ruling denying Windermere Holdings, LLC's attorneys ex-parte application to compel binding arbitration, or closed-door proceedings, on the dispute related to two alleged wills Kinkade is said to have left live-in-girlfriend Amy Pinto-Walsh, granting her his Monte Sereno home, adjacent studio, $10 million, and his artwork estimated at more than $66 million.
"Judge Cain issued a different ruling than Judge [Leslie C.] Nichols, deciding that he would hear the alleged holographs at issue. I respect both those judges very much, but because of the different rulings and because of the different legal issues, the estate decided to file this appeal of Judge Cain's order," said Kinkade estate attorney Daniel L. Casas.
The Kinkade attorney was referring to a June 15 ruling by Judge Nichols that allowed a binding arbitration panel to privately hear Pinto-Walsh's claims that the estate violated a .
Kinkade, one of the most prolific and successful American painters of modern art, died the morning of April 6 His death set off a legal battle between his estate and Pinto-Walsh.
"Essentially the estate is trying to do the same thing that it did initially and that is to honor an agreement that was entered by Thomas Kinkade and Amy Pinto-Walsh to have these issues heard in binding arbitration," Casas said.
A confidentiality agreement that the estate claims Pinto-Walsh signed in July of 2011 is at the heart of the legal issues, Casas said, adding that the document is broad when trying to explain Judge Cain's ruling.
Cain ruled that because the agreement didn't specifically state a testamentary disposition to a probate dispute needed to be conducted in binding arbitration, or behind closed doors, an open court could hear the issues.
Pinto-Walsh's attorney, Douglas Dal Cielo, called the appeal frivolous and was simply meant to delay the proceedings. A normal appeal can take a year to 18 months, but Dal Cielo said he believes the appeal could be subject to a motion to dismiss that they're considering filing with the court.
"If successful it will get rid of the appeal in short order," Dal Cielo said.
Soon after the painter died, his
The fate of the Monte Sereno Mansion, 16324 Ridgecrest Ave., is still unknown as Pinto-Walsh still resides there. Her attorneys contend Kinkade left her the property, along with adjacent art studio.
Casas said Pinto-Walsh's first lawyer had told the estate that he had advised her to vacate the home. However, she didn't, and there are legal reasons why the estate can't evict her at this time, Casas said.
"The whole issue of whether she gets to live there is subject to arbitration," he explained, adding that now there's around-the-clock security at the residence obtained by the estate. He wouldn't say why the beefed up security was needed.
Casas said the residence's mortgage is not at default, but rather triggered a home loan that came due after Kinkade's death who, along with his widow, Nanette Kinkade, are co-borrowers on the approximately $2 million debt remaining on the property.
Casas said there's a provision in the loan agreement that says if a borrower dies, the loan goes into default and it makes the bank accelerate the loan by calling the debt due. "That's all that's happened," he said. "It's the lender's option to enforce that default. There has been no default on mortgage payments and they continue to be paid."
The title to the property is with the Kinkade estate, he said.
A hearing on the probate matter had been set for Aug. 13, but now attorneys for both sides are saying that proceeding will most likely be postponed due to this week's appeal.
Both attorneys estimated it could be about a year before a decision is known on the appeal to the probate matter, with more delays expected after that ruling is issued to determine if there's any kind of trial on the binding arbitration matter related to the agreement and other claims.
About the request for private binding arbitration across the board from the estate, Casas said Kinkade wanted any disputes to be confidential. "He was a guy who thought about his family first. He has a wife, whom he was in divorce proceedings with, and four daughters ... He wanted to protect them ... Thom obviously wanted to protect the family, protect his legacy ... It's almost as if he anticipated that there were going to be disputes with this woman [Pinto-Walsh] and he intentionally wanted to make sure that this was the case and that she understood, agreed to and signed that document herself. There's no surprise here for her, none whatsoever," Casas said.
About Pinto-Walsh's claims that the estate violated a medical directive that gave her access to the disposition of the painter's body, Casas said the allegation is factually and legally without basis.
About the validity of the so-called holographic wills, Casas said: "They kind of speak for themselves ... If it is in his hand, and that's questionable, it's obvious and I believe the timing of those documents ... explain that he wasn't competent at the time. There are different times when he was hospitalized ... his drinking problem. It's the family's decision that even if those were in his hand ... he certainly wasn't in his right mind and that's evidenced by simply looking at them."
Casas said the courts will have to consider that Kinkade was an artist who painted, and "when you look at those kind of chicken-scratch documents you really have to question their authenticity and whether or not he was all there when he may have done that."
Asked how the Thomas Kinkade Company is doing, Casas said it's fine, producing the painter's mass products out of its Morgan Hill location on a daily basis, but he said he didn't know how much sales had increased after his death.
Los Gatos Patch obtained PDF copies of the Kinkade estate's notice of appeal, copies of the wills at question, and Pinto-Walsh's attorneys' order to deny an ex-parte application to enforce arbitration related to the probate matter. Also attached to this story is Pinto-Walsh's declaration supporting opposition to have the probate matters closed.
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