The death of a loved one can be a difficult matter to handle. Emotions are riding high and level heads are few and far between. If the deceased is without a will to specifically advise survivors on how to distribute the estate’s assets and survivors disagree on what should happen to the estate, matters can get complicated quickly. In cases such as this, probate litigation will ensue in order to provide a resolution, as this story demonstrates. That is why it is so important for Michigan residents and others elsewhere to plan for the unexpected with a will or trust.

Artist Thomas Kinkade died unexpectedly in April of this year. He is survived by a widow and a girlfriend. The two women are battling in probate court to determine what assets belong to which woman. At the time of his death, Kinkade resided with his girlfriend, who claims he left two handwritten notes depicting his wishes before his death. The details of the notes allegedly leave the house and $10 million to her. Part of this money, she claims was intended for the establishment of a museum on the property they shared so that his work may be showcased. His widow contends his belongings and art should be removed from the property.

In the most recent court hearing, Kinkade’s girlfriend agreed to pay $11,000 a month in rent to stay at the San Francisco Bay property she shared with the painter, which includes a mansion. However, the dispute continues in the matter of the paintings, furniture and other possessions. For the upcoming Dec ember probate court hearing, both women were told to bring a list of items to which they thought they were entitled.

In cases such as this, it may be advisable to seek advice on how to proceed in a manner that protects your rights. Probate representation may be necessary in order to provide some much-needed peace of mind during your time of bereavement and ensure your loved one’s wishes are carried out the way he or she would have wanted.

Source: The Oakland Press, “Late painter’s girlfriend agrees to pay $11K rent,” Sept.18, 2012.