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Kurt Cobain’s heirloom guitar goes to daughter’s ex-spouse

On Behalf of | May 17, 2018 | Property Division |

Family heirlooms often get caught up in bitter divorce fights — especially when they’re both highly portable and valuable.

Frances Bean Cobain, the daughter of music legend Kurt Cobain, who was arguably the most influential musician of his generation and whose music still inspires many, found this out the hard way when she finally parted from her spouse. She walked away from the marriage, but her ex-husband eventually walked off with the acoustic guitar once owned by Kurt Cobain.

How could something like that happen? Unfortunately, fairly easily.

The acoustic guitar was part of a limited-production of only 300, making it valuable from the start. It sells for around $6,500 on most collectible sites. However, it’s real value lay in the fact that it was the one used by Cobain in his famous appearance on MTV’s “Unplugged” shortly before his death. For fans of the era, it’s the single most recognizable musical instrument in the world — making it potentially worth millions.

For the Cobain family, it was nearly priceless. However, when his daughter left her troubled marriage, the guitar remained in her ex-husband’s possession, and he refused to turn it over. He claimed that it was his because his wife had given it to him.

Separate property that’s held by a spouse prior to marriage is generally not part of the marital assets. Therefore, the vast amount of the younger Cobain’s inherited wealth from her father’s estate couldn’t be touched by her spouse.

However, when one spouse makes a gift of something to the other for a birthday or some other reason, that gift usually becomes the other spouse’s private property — even when it’s a family heirloom. The only way to avoid that problem is to get an agreement that a family heirloom must be returned if there’s a divorce.

Unfortunately, when there’s a dispute over a family heirloom, it can often boil down to a “he said/she said” argument that has to be decided in court. While the arguments can become highly emotional and extremely expensive, it’s sometimes wiser to just cut your losses and move on — which is what Cobain’s daughter apparently decided to do.

With the property division issues settled, Frances Bean Cobain is able to put her troubled marriage behind her — which may ultimately be the best gift of all.

Source:, “KURT COBAIN’s Daughter Loses His Famous Guitar In Divorce Settlement,” May 16, 2018


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