Thomas Kinkade’s Handwritten Wills in Dispute

What happens when the handwritten wills of a famous painter gives $10 million dollars to his girlfriend?  A big news story and bigger lawsuit. Read below the recent article in the Bay area’s top newspaper about the legal battle over the handwriting.

Do you recognize this style of painting?  If you didn’t know Thomas Kinkade is the best selling artist of the past 20 years. His estate is reportedly worth over $100 million and paintings doubled in price with news of his passing.







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Article written by Julia Prodis Sulek
The dispute over Thomas Kinkade’s multimillion-dollar estate has come down to two barely legible wills that leave his girlfriend his mansion and $10 million, and three burning questions: Did he write them? Was he coerced? And, finally, as the letters state, was he really of “sound mind and body”?

A judge will start considering those issues next month. And if the case goes to trial, whether in open court or private arbitration, expect a parade of experts, drinking buddies and relatives to weigh in.

When a handwriting expert at the request of this newspaper took a look at the two scrawled letters, he said whoever wrote them was clearly impaired.

“I thought he had Parkinson’s or was three sheets to the wind,” said Bart Baggett, a Southern California-based handwriting expert who has testified in numerous probate cases, including a case involving a will written under the influence of alcohol.

It’s an opinion that Kinkade’s live-in girlfriend Amy Pinto-Walsh will have to change in order to walk away from her 18-month affair a wealthy woman with a multimillion-dollar estate.

Her lawyer, Douglas Dal Cielo, is confident that despite appearances, Kinkade was, as he wrote in the letters, “of sound mind and body,” and it will be the burden of Kinkade’s estranged wife of 30 years and his estate to prove otherwise.

Click the images to see the full size of the handwriting samples

Daniel Casas, a Los Altos lawyer representing the Kinkade estate, said, however, that the holographic wills with their shaky writing “pretty much speak for themselves.” He acknowledges that California law allows handwritten wills to be valid, even if they’re not notarized, as long as they are authentic, the writer had “capacity” when he wrote them, and was not “unduly influenced.” Still, Casas said he is confident the pair of wills won’t hold up to scrutiny.

Pinto-Walsh’s lawyer, however, says he has a strong case, even if Kinkade was an alcoholic.

“California case law is very clear,” he said. “Alcoholics have mental capacity and the fact that they write a document, whether they’re under the influence or not, case law is clear that people who have substance abuse problems and issues (also) have capacity.”

But what if Kinkade — the so-called “Painter of Light” whose images depict dreamy landscapes and tranquil country cottages — was deathly drunk when he wrote them?

“I think evidence will be favorable on that subject,” Dal Cielo said, pointing out that the two letters, one appearing to slightly amend the other, were written one month apart.

The dispute over Kinkade’s fortune has garnered national attention, and pitted the blond-haired mother of Kinkade’s four daughters who helped build the Kinkade art empire against the buxom brunette who said that though they shared difficult times over their short relationship, they were “soul mates’ who planned to marry in Fiji as soon as his divorce was final.

Most importantly, Pinto-Walsh claims, even though the letters aren’t formal documents executed in a lawyer’s office, these were Kinkade’s wishes.

In a statement, however, the Kinkade estate — which includes his wife and Windermere Holding Company that operates the art businesses — said the only valid will is the one executed by Thomas and Nanette Kinkade.

Casas adds that while Kinkade “may have expressed something” to his lawyers about Pinto-Walsh receiving something in the event of his death, “it certainly wasn’t anything that rose to the level of these holographs.”

The 54-year-old artist was found dead by Pinto-Walsh, 48, in his home on April 6 after a night of heavy drinking and popping Valium. The coroner determined he died of a lethal level of alcohol.

Kinkade’s brother, Patrick, said in an interview with this paper shortly after his brother’s death that the artist spiraled into alcoholism after the separation from his wife two years earlier. He met Pinto-Walsh six months later, then invited her to move into the estate.

One of the handwritten letters was dated November and said that Kinkade, “being of sound mind and body,” bequeathed Pinto-Walsh his estate and $10 million cash “for her security.” The second letter, written in December, leaves her the house and specifies that $10 million should be used to establish a public museum at the house of his artwork and that of other famous artists he collected. Friends have said Kinkade owns at least two Norman Rockwell originals.

It will be up to a handwriting expert like Baggett to provide some interpretation of the wills.

In both letters, he said, “the line quality was really, really shaky. The hand-eye coordination was basically nonexistent. Hardly any letter was made in a fluid form. Almost all stopped and started with shakes.”

Still, he said, if alcohol was in his system, “you could speculate that there was less alcohol” when he wrote the first letter because the letters seem slightly better controlled.

“It definitely looked like two different states of mind,” Baggett said. “But I did think it was the same writer.”

– Julia Prodis Sulek (


  1. Yes, he was impaired. I agree with Bart, it looks like the writing of someone with Parkinson’s Disease. Severely neurologically impaired, not just drunk.

    I think the court will consider the handwritten wills and then throw them out.

    Why didn’t Mr. Kinkade phone his lawyer to come over and modify his will? That would have been the easiest way to make an addition to his will.

    I also think the family should make her an offer, (unless she has a contract with her lawyer) pay her off and save legal fees.

    Of course that’s too easy for most people to consider.

  2. I wonder how conscious he might have been (drowsy even!) and if his hand was guided? Is it possible to discern that?

  3. If they were ‘soul mates’ why wouldn’t the will be written when he was of sober mind? Is it clear when these were written or is it just assumption that the dates are true? His hand may have been on the pen, most likely coerced or there wouldn’t have been such a rush to have it written when he couldn’t see straight or walk — period. (forget walking a straight line) or for him to have to be nearly unconscious to agree with what was written except being coerced. She very possibly could have been responsible (even deliberately) for his death. Is it clear that some or all of the drugs weren’t mixed in his drinks — or that the ‘will’ wasn’t written soon before he died of toxicity? No murder investigation? Really?

  4. The fact that he did drink does not always mean at the time of impairment
    that he was of sound mind. Alcoholics are easily influenced and then you add valuim to the mix and the wills not set-up with your lawyer as one had already been done seems very suspicious to me. If it was Kincaid’s true feeling at the time of the first one he would have called his lawyer to draw up the proper papers. These impomtu wills are not a part of what a wealthy man would do as he already had an attorney and would have used him.. But if he was on valium and also alcohol and the writings show these disturbances it would appear that
    he was under too much influence to be of sound mind. I too would consider is there an investigation into his death. The girlfriend surely could have pointed out to Kincaid we must get this solidifed with your attorney. If she along with Kincaid did not do this then I have my suspicions he was not of sound mind and could not honor such a contract.. . Something smells fishy. Perhaps an analysis of the womans handwriting and the attorney would be a place to start as well. This sounds like a good documetnary for 48 hours.

    Carol.Zan Angeli June 2012

  5. Another finding that I found from my early days of learning graphology was the dog legged response in the first letter shown “on my death”. The dog like response at the end of a letter is usually one of a thief. There is only one but I wonder if his hand was not guided. If this was truly his wish and not one out of
    being heavily influenced in drugs and alcohol and influenced by another( Amy Pinto) he would have called his attorney to draw up his wishes. This never happened, What disturbs me is that with these written notes/letters was there not some suspicians into his death. Because of the letter and the changes makes me think the hand was guided but non the less it would appear he was too heavily influenced either way to be his true wishes,

    Carol Zan Angeli- SBarbara,Ca

  6. i think a really good place to start would be multiple analyses of the girlfriend’s
    handwriting over time. the same with kincade himself. therein
    ,lay the best clues.
    does she dominate with clear headed purpose and determination?(as did “wallace simpson”-for example. interesting also, to know the personality
    relationship between the estranged and the girlfriend. what is the fabric
    of each?
    this has the makings for a great project….don’t you think?

    thomas e. barone- new brunswick nj

  7. Dog legged = thief, good analysis c angel. The Guided Hand hypothesis/intuition would account for why someone in a “shaky” state would have the STAMINA to write more than one sentence. From our own experiences when ill/exhausted/sleepy-drowsy (through whatever means) etc or witnessing others in this state, sustained writing is not likely, is it? You write a bit and stop because the focus/state of awareness/strength is lost–the effort is just too much to sustain. Who would have the motivation to keep the writing going? Wouldn’t he have said, call my lawyer and let him write this up for us so I don’t have to exert myself? And, wouldn’t it be smarter for her to, at least, pull out her smart phone and video him as he wrote (since going to the lawyer wasn’t happening), because anyone with any smarts would know it would be challenged in court? The way the legal system and people with thieving minds work, if you don’t bring suit, you don’t get anything BUT, if you bring a challenge/suit for an amount of dollars, many times it is “settled” for a lesser or some amount and the person has a good chance of profiting in some way.
    Graphologically speaking, would pressure and stop and starts and the “bleeding” of her handwriting traits into the specimens show as well as the thieving traits?

  8. I’m surprised there have been no comments on the firmness of the downstrokes of the y’s, not shaky at all. In fact most of the downstrokes in the “wills” are firm and fairly straight. Parkinson’s? The S’s and a G in the samples bear this out.

    The capital K is in two downstrokes. In Kincade’s signature on his paintings the K is one continuous stroke with a small loop forming the upper part of the K. Entirely different.

    If his signature is representative of his handwriting, it shows more curves and artistic flow. Even with Parkinsons these tendencies and letter formations would show. Instead the handwriting is angular.

    I would like to see a real sample of Kincades writing in previous years, but I believe this is a forgery. If his hand was involved at all it was directed by someone else.

  9. In deed, if his hand was guided or the writing a forgery, the traits shown in it would not be his but the traits of the guiding hand. A hand with lots of determination; domination and persistence in the T’s; no shakiness in the S’s or P’s. In fact, some of it is pretty legible. The strange star-like capital A’s are interesting, too.

    I agree with Thomas Barone; Amy’s handwriting should be studied for its characteristics as well as the traits it shows.

  10. Actually, as I look back at this, the handwriting really strikes me simply of someone’s deliberately lousy attempt at writing with their less dominant hand — lacking control in a hopeful attempt to make it look like it was at the hand of Thomas with a very overworked liver.

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