Kinkade's widow, Nanette Kinkade, had sought to keep the matter private, asking Judge Thomas Cain to immediately send the case to an arbitration panel and not open probate court.
But Cain rejected that request, saying he was being asked to make findings based on very limited information, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
At the center of the dispute are handwritten notes that 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. She was living with Kinkade and found his body when he died in April.
Nanette Kinkade, Kinkade's wife of 30 years, disputes those claims and is seeking full control of the estate. She and Kinkade were legally separated when Kinkade, 54, died of an accidental alcohol and Valium overdose.
"We're pleased that (the judge) is going to keep this matter in the probate court," Sonia Agee, Pinto-Walsh's attorney, told KGO-TV outside court. "We think it's the right place for it not only for Ms. Pinto, but also for the public interest."
The case was continued until Aug. 13.
Pinto-Walsh was present in court. Nanette Kinkade was not.
"She wants to keep things as private as she can for herself, her family, her girls, and that's what Thom wanted," Dan Casas, the attorney who appeared on behalf of Nanette Kinkade, told KGO-TV.
Kinkade, 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 each 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.
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 the court proceedings.
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