The widow and girlfriend of the famous artist Thomas Kinkade have finally reached a settlement in the probate litigation case that had drawn the artist’s $66 million fortune into question. Local media sources report that the details of the settlement have been made confidential, and neither woman will discuss the terms of the agreement. It is still unclear who will receive the man’s massive home in San Francisco, along with his storage warehouse full of paintings.

Experts say the man’s estate was thrown into turmoil after he died unexpectedly from an accidental overdose of alcohol and prescription drugs. The girlfriend of the 54-year-old artist claimed that he had written notes that provided her with the mansion and at least $10 million to create a museum for his artwork. The pair had been dating for just six months; Kinkade had called off his 28-year marriage in 2011.

The estate dispute turned confrontational when Kinkade’s ex-wife painted his girlfriend as greedy and money-hungry, a woman who simply wanted to bleed the man’s estate dry. His ex-wife claimed that the girlfriend was jeopardizing the claims of rightful heirs.

Kinkade was known for his spiritual paintings that used unusual light patterns to highlight the beauty of nature. His franchise and commercial art galleries netted more than $100 million a year, according to expert estimates.

This case demonstrates how lengthy and hard-fought probate litigation can be. Kinkade had gone through a major life transition shortly before his death and may not have formally changed his will to suit new beneficiaries. Additionally, he may have left non-binding directions for his estate that were contradicted by his actual will.

Individuals with high-value assets should immediately update their estate plans as soon as a major life change occurs. Those can include divorces and marriages, along with the death of a close family member. Keeping your will up to date can prevent drawn-out disputes among angry relatives.

Luis E. Barreto