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August 3, 2019

Estate Planning: What About the Intellectual Property?

by Jackson Watson in Estate Planning

In spite of excellent objectives, many individuals do not get severe about completing their estate planning and estate documents until late in life. Even when they do, they concentrate on which people will inherit the concrete assets– such as homes, land, loan, jewelry, stock and other financial investments.

Less attention is put on the intangible assets– such as works of authorship, innovations, brand names and trade secrets. Many individuals may think that they do not have intangible properties, nevertheless, in today’s world, many people regularly utilize social media and web tools– permitting them to compose and comment by means of various platforms daily. As a part of the estate planning procedure, one should recognize their intellectual property.
Intangible possessions result from the creative power of the human mind. Works of authorship, creations, brand names, and trade secrets are all produced utilizing our intelligence and creativity. While not everyone can be a popular author, vocalist, artist or developer, one might still own some copyright rights.

As an example, copyright law supplies defense for works of authorship. Some people are authors of posts, books, sheet music, and site material. Others are developers of software application code for numerous items, while others produce paintings, illustrations, photos, videos and sound recordings. For an individual author, these copyrights last for the life of the author plus seventy years. Clearly, the next generation will have rights that might be important if dealt with appropriately.
Several years ago, my customers who have written many books got in into a long term license agreement for use of these copyrights in exchange for particular royalty payments. The licensee was likewise certified to make acquired works– meaning works that are based upon these pre-existing books. This license arrangement might continue after the life of the authors– offering a yearly royalty income stream to the heirs.

Many individuals utilize social media tools every day. Decisions must be made about what takes place to all of that content upon one’s death. To comprehend the appropriate rights, one has to examine the terms of service for the applicable social media platform. Whether the content that a person has composed has worth or not, one need to choose if the social networks account must stay open or be closed following death. As an example, Facebook u00ae permits either the closing of the account or the conversion of the account into one for memorialization following death.
It is necessary to differentiate in one’s will between concrete personal effects and intellectual property, and particularly designate to whom one wants to leave the latter. Copyright rights have unique requirements for preserving such rights, and they pose special service concerns to commercially make use of these rights. As an example, under specific circumstances, copyright law enables one to end a copyright transfer that was made 35 years prior. It in some cases makes good sense to designate a specialized administrator for these properties and rights.

One need to consider transfers at death that are made through living trusts, which avoid probate. They likewise enable management of intangible possessions if and when one might be immobilized. In addition, one can move ownership of their intellectual property to legal entities such as corporations and restricted liability business, for ease and continuity of management and to help with the transfer.
Looking at another kind of intellectual property, trade tricks offer defense for details that a person conceals. Trade secrets include the formula for Coca-Cola u00ae and the dish for KFC u00ae chicken. There is no doubt that this formula and dish are rather important. Even an owner of a regional neighborhood restaurant may have a trade trick in the type of a recipe for special barbeque sauce or unique pizza sauce, or a recipe for a European dessert. Trade tricks last forever so long as they are kept secret.

Patent law offers protection for innovations. The next generation might acquire the special rights to leave out others from making and offering services and products under the creation. Patent rights last for twenty years for the utility and plant patent. Maintenance fees are due periodically so that the patent rights are not cancelled and lost. If one’s beneficiaries will not directly utilize the patented rights, then a patent license to 3rd parties in exchange for a royalty might be appropriate.
In conclusion, as part of the estate planning process, a list of all intangible assets and intellectual property rights must be developed. One must choose how to move those properties and rights upon death, and whether to move such possessions into a legal entity well prior to death. The next generation must understand one’s dreams and be well informed about how to maintain and commercially exploit these assets. The services of a copyright lawyer ought to be kept to help in the efforts of the estate planning attorney and the financial consultant.