Law Review: Jerry Garcia’s estate’s legal woes keep on truckin’ |

Law Review: Jerry Garcia’s estate’s legal woes keep on truckin’

While Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead were the epitome of peace, love and brown rice, the probate of the legendary bandleader’s estate is not so grateful.

After he died in 1995, Jerry left most of his $10 million estate to his last wife, Deborah Koons Garcia, leaving the rest to be divided by his four daughters from previous relationships, his brother, Sunshine Kesey the daughter of writer Ken Kesey, and Jerry’s former wife, Carolyn, also known as Mountain Girl.

Royalties from an assortment of Jerry memorabilia, including neckties (of which I have several), Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream “Cherry Garcia” ($300,000 a year), dolls, bedsheets, lithographs and more, brings in about $1.5 million a year.

The hot button for the estate is the language in the will where Jerry left “my Irwin guitars” to his guitar maker and longtime friend, Doug Irwin. Irwin, who is now destitute as a result of injuries and resulting medical bills he suffered after being hit by a car while on his bicycle, claims he’s entitled to the instruments, which include the famed “Wolf,” “Tiger” and “Rosebud” guitars.

The beneficiaries under the will and the remaining Dead band members argue Grateful Dead Productions owns the guitars, and therefore they were not Jerry’s to will away. They can document the band paid for them.

The Rosebud guitar, which Jerry played at Chicago’s Soldier’s Field in 1995, the band’s last concert together, is estimated to be worth more than $1 million. It is decorated with a skeleton holding a cross in one hand and a rosebud in the other. It cost $13,000.

Irwin claims the guitars are his and that Jerry’s intent should be honored. He claims Grateful Dead Productions has offered him only the “Wolf”‘ guitar.

Even the band members disagree over who should get the guitars. Dead bassist Phil Lesh wants the valuable guitars to be given to Irwin while Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart want the instruments displayed in a planned museum.

The beneficiaries have been in negotiations for years, each claiming the other is delaying the proceedings. Some want all the assets distributed and others, in particular Jerry’s widow, want an entity set up to manage Jerry’s assets, including his likeness, music, art, trade names and trademarks.

For the time being the case remains in probate court. So much for Good Lovin’.

Deadheads, stay tuned.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter/Simon, with offices in Truckee and Reno. He is a mediator and was the governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He may be reached at or at the firm Web site

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