March 18, 2018
When people think about the items that make up their estate as they prepare to meet with their estate planning attorney, they typically think about items such as bank and retirement accounts, real estate, vehicles, jewelry, and items of value they have purchased. What some people may overlook is what will happen to their intellectual property when they pass.
If you have a copyright, you need to know what the best way is to protect that asset for your heirs. An estate planning attorney can help.
One of the first things you must determine is if any of the rights associated with your intellectual property has been transferred to another entity and which rights have been fully retained by you. It is important to remember that a copyright isn’t one item, but is actually a collection of rights. These rights include the right to perform, the right to copy, and the right to license. It is not uncommon for people to transfer some of the rights and retain others for themselves.
Estate planning for copyrights does not just concern the person who the copyright was granted to, but can also apply to the heirs of that person. According to federal copyright law, a copyright lasts for the life of the author and an additional 70 years after they die. If you have inherited a copyright, then it is still a valid copyright for 70 years from the date the person you inherited from died. Depending on how old you are when you inherited the copyright, there is a possibility that the copyright will outlive you. This is why you need to assign copyright interest in your estate plans.
There are a few options for transferring your copyright. Some people transfer copyright interests through their wills, while others transfer interests using a living trust. Because there are federal laws that address termination rights when it comes to transferring interests in trusts and wills, your estate attorney can explain what may be the best way for your situation. Transfer rights allow the copyright owner or their heirs a window of time to terminate a transfer and keep their ownership. But if ownership is transferred via a living trust, that window may not exist.
One thing that should be specified in your will is instructions to the executor that you choose to oversee your estate that he or she should record your death with the U.S. Copyright Office, which is located in Washington, D.C. This is the only way to ensure that the copyright will be extended those 70 years following your date of death.
Whatever type of estate planning tools and resources you decide to use, you will want to make sure that your copyrights are carefully addressed. No matter what type of intellectual property it is – a book, play, written or recorded music, a work of art – you want to ensure that any royalties associated with your work are paid to the heir or heirs that you have chosen. Work with an experienced attorney such as the estate planning lawyer Sacramento CA locals turn to.
Thanks to authors at Yee Law Group PLLC for their insight into Estate Planning.