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Thomas Kinkade's widow, girlfriend face off in court over $66 million estate of "Painter of Light"

(AP) SAN JOSE, Calif. - 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.

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(Watch at left a "CBS Evening News" obituary)

Nanette Kinkade's lawyers have requested that the probate proceedings be conducted behind closed doors, the Los Angeles Times reported. 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.

The first, according to a transcription furnished earlier this month by Pinto-Walsh's lawyers, reads: "I, Thomas Kinkade, being of sound mind and body do hereby bequeath to Amy Pinto Walsh $10,000,000 in cash from my corporate policy and I give her the house at 16342 Ridgecrest Avenue for her security."

The second note states that along with the house, Pinto-Walsh, 48, should be given $10 million to establish the "Thomas Kinkade Museum" at the mansion "for the public display in perpetuity of original art."

Pinto-Walsh's lawyer, Sonia Agee, will ask the court to carry out those instructions. Agee will also seek legal authority for Pinto-Walsh to oversee $66.3 million from Kinkade's estate.

Pinto-Walsh's lawyers filed court papers June 11 stating that she and Kinkade had planned to marry in Fiji as soon as his divorce went through.

Nanette Kinkade has painted Pinto-Walsh in court papers as a gold-digger who is trying to cheat the artist's rightful heirs. After Kinkade's death, she obtained a restraining order prohibiting the other woman from talking publicly about the artist. That confidentiality agreement is also the subject of court proceedings.