Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the music group Nirvana, died without a will at the age of 27 from a selfinflicted gunshot wound. Cobain was survived by his wife, Courtney Love, who reportedly suffered for years from drug addiction, and his minor child, Frances Bean Cobain.
Following Cobain's death, Love formed a limited liability company with Cobain's former bandmates to control all the ongoing projects related to Nirvana. As part of the LLC agreement, Love reportedly retained full control over Cobain's publishing share and the use of his image and name.
Years later, Love sued to dissolve the LLC. The parties eventually settled the lawsuit, and in later years Love reportedly relinquished her rights to Cobain's name and likeness. Twenty years after Cobain's death, Cobain's estate continues to be big business. Nirvana has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, albums have been released posthumously, and its music continues to be licensed for use in movies and commercials.
Instead of dying intestate, Cobain could have executed a will naming professional advisors as the fiduciaries of his estate and safeguarded his property through the use of trusts and, because Cobain and Love resided in a community property state, a property status agreement (separate property agreement).
In conjunction with his estate planning, Cobain could have put a team of skilled professionals in place with particular expertise in the music industry to manage and maximize his interest in Nirvana after his death. Because Cobain died without a will and without a separate property agreement,
Cobain lost a crucial opportunity to name fiduciaries and other professionals to manage his property. Because he failed to plan, Love had priority to serve as his fiduciary and to manage his interest in Nirvana after his death.
The future success of a valuable enduring business should not be left to chance. Attorneys should make sure that their clients' wishes are carefully spelled out in wills or business succession plans setting forth a roadmap for the future continuity and management of the business.