The children of artist Margarete Bagshaw, who died at age 50 in March, are challenging a will that they say her widower had the late artist sign while she was in hospice care shortly before her death.
The will was created after Bagshaw had suffered a stroke in January, brain cancer was discovered and she lost “significant mental capacity,” according to a court petition filed this week in state District Court.
The petition alleges that, after the stroke Jan. 15, Bagshaw’s husband of five years, Dan McGuinness, “went to work to try to secure Margarete’s considerable estate for himself at the expense of her two children” from a previous marriage.
A new will of less than two pages was prepared as quickly as possible “disinheriting” the two adult children – Helen and Forrest Tindel – and “giving substantially all of her assets” to McGuinness, says the siblings’ court filing.
McGuinness himself had no comment when reached by telephone Thursday. But Frieda Burnes, an attorney for McGuinness, called the allegations “truly outrageous.”
“They will all be refuted by the people who were around Margarete during the last few months of her life, who will testify that Margarete was more than capable when she executed the will,” added Burnes.
Burnes said Bagshaw “loved her children very, very much” but that their relationships were difficult. She said Bagshaw’s son hadn’t spoken with her for 10 years and that the daughter didn’t visit Bagshaw in the last month of her life.
Ben Allison, lawyer for the Tindels, responded that the reason Forrest Tindel didn’t talk much with his mom was that, 10 years ago, when Forrest was a teenager, McGuiness “took Forrest’s mom away to go live in the Virgin Islands for five years – so Forrest didn’t have a mom in his high school years.”
He said Helen Tindel “was very close to her mom and, when her mom was in the hospital, Dan couldn’t keep Helen away. But when Dan moved Margarete home in her last weeks, Dan did not include Helen in her mom’s care and did not welcome Helen at their house.”
The Tindels’ court petition also accuses McGuinness of having an affair with Bagshaw while she was still married to their father, Greg Tindel, before a divorce. They also allege that a woman friend of Bagshaw and McGuinness moved into their home while Bagshaw was still alive “and began sleeping in the same bed as Mr. McGuinness.”
“They are still a couple,” the petition maintains.
It says a previous Bagshaw will was executed in 1996, with Greg Tindel and the two children as beneficiaries, but that this will now “bypasses” Greg Tindel because of the subsequent divorce and goes to the children.
The petition seeks to have the new will from January set aside because of “undue influence” and “tortious interference with inheritance.”
It maintains that McGuinness had Bagshaw sign the will on Jan. 28 when she came home from the hospital on hospice care, at a time when she couldn’t say what she had for breakfast, couldn’t tell when it was snowing or remember when people visited her, the petition says.
“Margarete could read, watch television and talk, but the part of her brain that controlled executive functioning had been affected,” the petitions states. “She could not do proactive thinking or make decisions for herself. When asked if she wanted water, coffee or orange juice, she could not decide. But she would agree if one suggested what to drink.”
After the stroke, the filing states, Bagshaw couldn’t recognize daughter Helen, thought she had asthma or the flu or had been drugged at a Lyle Lovett concert, and believed she was in Santa Fe instead of in the hospital in Albuquerque.
The new will gives the two children “no paintings done by their mother, and allows them only two each of the lesser paintings by their grandmother and great-grandmother” – renowned Native American artists Helen Hardin and Pablita Velarde – “but gives Mr. McGuinness veto control over paintings they choose.”
The works of all three women are displayed in the Golden Dawn Gallery, 201 Galisteo St., opened by Bagshaw in 2009. She and McGuinness also worked with other artists to open the Pablita Velarde Museum of Indian Women in the Arts on Cathedral Place in 2012.
A copy of the new will says each of the children gets to pick four paintings by both Hardin and Velarde, but excluding “Old Father paintings,” apparently a reference to famous paintings Velarde did for the book “Old Father Story-Teller.” McGuinness then gets to keep two of the four selected by each sibling, leaving each child with two Hardin paintings and two Velardes.
The new will does give Helen and Forrest Tindel their mother’s house in Albuquerque, subject to paying off a $30,000 mortgage. The court petition says McGuinness borrowed about $30,000 against the house and “had the benefit of the money,” and now the new will calls for the Tindels to pay off the loan.
“All the rest of Margarete’s substantial property – including a historic jewelry and pottery collection, substantial art of Helen Hardin and Pablita Velarde, family heirlooms, Margarete’s gallery and other business interests, intellectual property, and a valuable Santa Fe home, cars and other property interests – goes to McGuinness in the 2015 will,” says the petition.
But the will in fact says the children can each select 10 pieces of Velarde’s jewelry and 10 pieces of Hardin’s, as well as 10 pieces of pottery from the Hardin and Velarde collections.
Burnes said the way assets are distributed in the new will are “natural.”
“A large percentage goes to the husband and the rest goes either to the children or is donated,” said Burnes.
The petition notes that the new will has signatures of Bagshaw and two witnesses with the date Jan. 28, but that notarized signatures of the witnesses on an additional page are dated Feb. 2.