Do I Have to Include Copyrights that I Own in My Will?
May 30th, 2018
When you are engaging in estate planning and writing your will, you are likely to consider tangible assets first, such as real estate, vehicles, antiques, and bank accounts. However, it is equally important to consider the disposition of intangible items of property, such as intellectual property, which is a classification for property like patents, trade secrets, and copyrights with respect to books, songs, artworks, computer programs, and other publications. In today’s world, most people participate in some form of social media, which means that they may publish certain comments and writings online. These digital assets also are an important item to consider during the estate planning process, and you’ll have to decide what you want to happen to those accounts following your death.
Copyright licenses can be particularly difficult to handle, but are important to consider, since they last for the life of the author and then for another 70 years afterwards. For instance, if you have published several books, you’ll have to specify what to do with the copyright for those books. One option is to enter into a long-term licensing agreement with a publisher; under this type of agreement, you could give the publisher the right to use your copyrighted material in exchange for royalty payments to your heirs. This can create a continual stream of income for your loved ones following your death. You also can direct royalties to a corporation or a limited liability company instead of an individual person or persons.
Absent specific directions in your will, your heirs can use the copyright licenses that you’ve left them however they want, or whatever is necessary to benefit them financially. If your will places limitations on the copyrights’ usage, though, your heirs generally will not be able to use the copyrights in a manner that you specifically prohibited in your will. In any case, you must have a clear written bequest in your will that addresses intellectual property such as copyright licenses if you want to transfer ownership of them to a specific individual or company.
The estate planning attorneys of Legacy Law Center pride themselves on successfully guiding clients through the estate planning process so that they can properly address the disposition of all types of property. We have the knowledge and resources to help you make the decisions that are best for you and your family. Don’t hesitate to call our Ann Arbor office today and learn how we can assist you.