- Associated Press - Monday, July 2, 2012

SAN JOSE, CALIF. (AP) - Hearings in the dispute between Thomas Kinkade’s widow and girlfriend over the late artist’s $66 million estate will not be conducted behind closed doors.

A judge ruled on Monday that the case will remain open to the public in probate court and not be decided through private arbitration.

Kinkade’s widow, Nanette Kinkade, had sought to keep the matter private.

At the center of the dispute are handwritten notes Thomas Kinkade’s girlfriend, Amy Pinto-Walsh, says bequeath her his mansion in Monte Sereno and $10 million to establish a museum of his paintings.

Nanette Kinkade disputes those claims and is seeking full control of the estate. She and Kinkade were legally separated when Kinkade died in April of an accidental alcohol and Valium overdose.

The case was continued until Aug. 13.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Thomas Kinkade’s widow and girlfriend are facing off in court over who will be executor of the late artist’s $66.3 million estate.

Amy Pinto-Walsh, who was living with Kinkade and found his body when the 54-year-old died in April, has submitted handwritten notes she says bequeath her his mansion in Monte Sereno and $10 million to establish a museum of his paintings there.

Kinkade’s wife of 30 years, Nanette Kinkade, disputes the claims by Pinto-Walsh and seeks full control of the estate. The couple had been legally separated for more than two years when Kinkade died.

The self-described “Painter of Light” was known for sentimental scenes of country gardens and pastoral landscapes. His work led to a commercial empire of franchised galleries, reproduced artwork and spin-off products that was said to fetch some $100 million a year in sales.

In recent years, however, he had run into personal difficulties, including a 2010 bankruptcy filing by one of his companies and an arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence that same year outside Carmel.

Kinkade accidentally overdosed April 6 on alcohol and Valium.

Nanette Kinkade’s lawyers have requested that the probate proceedings be conducted behind closed doors, the Los Angeles Times reported (http://lat.ms/QLcHcy). A ruling on that point is pending.

Monday’s hearing will determine the authenticity and legal weight of the notes, dated Nov. 18, 2011, and Dec. 11, 2011.

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