Irrevocable Trust for Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love’s Daughter was Central Issue of First "Twibel" Case Tried

Courtney Love loses legal guardianship of daughter (opens in new window)Even though he passed away almost twenty years ago, Kurt Cobain, lead singer and guitarist of the Seattle-based band Nirvana, is still making headlines. This time, though, it’s his estate, not his music, that is the cause. The reason is that after $8 Million went missing from the irrevocable trust set up for the benefit of Frances Bean, the only daughter of Cobain and Courtney Love, lead singer of the band Hole, Ms Love went on Twitter and sent out inflammatory tweets accusing her former attorney, Rhonda Holmes of malfeasance.

When Cobain died in 1994, he left an estate estimated at more than $450 Million, but did not leave a will. Because of that fact, the case was handled under the intestacy rules and statutes of Washington State. According to The Guardian, Love was an active manager of the Frances Bean Cobain Trust Fund despite losing guardianship of her daughter in 2003 and 2009. In June of 2010, Love publicly accused her former legal rep of having been “bought off,” stating in a series of tweets regarding an investigation into the management of the Kurt Cobain estate, “They got to her,” for which she was sued by Holmes for defamation of character.

Love maintained that the tweet was intended to be a private message and that she deleted the post several minutes after realizing it was public. In a motion seeking summary judgment, Love’s attorneys argued that the internet as a medium was full of opinion and hyperboyle, and that her tweet about Holmes could not be taken seriously. Several courts have accepted this reasoning in dismissing libel suits over internet content, although the Washington did not. Instead, the case went to trial and was decided by a jury in Ms Love’s favor in late January of 2014. A handful of Twitter libel, or Twibel, cases have been filed in the past, but none had actually gone to trial in the U.S. prior to this case.

In 2012, Love ceded the controlling rights to the late Cobain’s public image to Frances Bean. This took place two years after Love relinquished her duties as manager of her late husband’s name and public image in exchange for a $2.75 million loan taken from the Frances Bean trust.

According to Rocco Beatrice, Managing Director of Estate Street Partners, LLC, “Borrowing from a trust is not an unusual matter, but it should not be handled without the advice of a trust management firm or an attorney. The repayment methods and terms must be discussed, and there may be fees to consider as well.”

Trusts are excellent instruments for asset protection, fund management and wealth preservation, but they are not impervious to potential legal challenges. The Family Trust Institute can show you how to protect your assets and save on estate taxes and probate costs through the implementation of a family trust. For more information, contact us.
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Sources:
1. Jury finds Courtney Love did not defame in first American Twibel trial 1/27/14
2. Courtney Love loses legal guardianship of daughter – 12/15/09
3. Courtney Love loses rights to Kurt Cobain’s image – 5/3/12
4. Courtney Love’s Defamation Trial Defense: Tweet Was Meant to Be Private – 1/15/14
5. Kurt Cobain’s Daughter’s Irrevocable Trust Inadvertently Caused Courtney Love to Change the Life of all Twitter Users Forever with a Landmark Victory, Claims UltraTrust – 1/15/14

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