You don’t need to be a renowned producer or a household name to possess intellectual property. Whether you’re a music creator, a business owner, a storyteller, or an inventor working in your garage, it’s highly likely that you own intellectual property. Unfortunately, due to its intangible nature, intellectual property often goes overlooked when it comes to estate planning.
However, it’s crucial to recognize that if you do possess intellectual property, it holds both sentimental and potentially significant monetary value, not only for you but also for your loved ones. Failing to include these valuable assets in your estate plan could result in their permanent loss to your family.
Even if you’ve consulted with an attorney for your business setup, will drafting, or tax filings, these professionals may not fully grasp the importance of safeguarding your intangible assets upon your passing. Many estate planning lawyers may not comprehend the value of intellectual property and how to adequately protect it. We, on the other hand, possess this expertise, and now you will too.
It’s imperative that you take the necessary steps not only to safeguard these intangible assets during your lifetime but also to ensure their proper management after your demise. This way, the monetary and sentimental value of your intellectual property remains intact for your heirs.
Protecting Your Intellectual Property in Your Lifetime
While you might assume that identifying, protecting, and valuing intellectual property only concerns large corporations and famous artists, this is far from the truth. Your intellectual property holds sentimental value for your family and may even have more monetary worth than you realize, making it even more valuable to your loved ones after your passing.
The initial step in protecting your intellectual property is to formally document it in an asset inventory. This inventory should detail what the asset is, where it’s located, and how to access it, especially if it’s a digital or intangible asset. This is a service I provide to ensure that no asset, whether tangible or intangible, is omitted from your plan or lost in the event of your passing.
The next step involves considering whether any of your intellectual property should be legally registered as trademarks, copyrights, or patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. While original works automatically receive copyright protection upon creation, registering your copyrights legally is essential for proving and enforcing your rights if someone attempts to steal or present your work as their own. Additionally, if you are involved in lending, renting, licensing, or selling your creations to third parties, having the appropriate legal agreements and contracts in place is crucial to clarify ownership.
Likewise, if you own a business, it’s imperative to secure your intellectual property with copyrights, trademarks, patents, royalty and licensing agreements, non-compete clauses for employees, and work-for-hire provisions in agreements with independent contractors and vendors.
Don’t procrastinate until your intellectual property is stolen or you receive a cease-and-desist letter before taking these protective measures. While trademark or copyright registration may involve some time and expense, the cost of not registering your original works can far exceed these initial investments, particularly if your family ends up in a legal battle to defend your creations.
Preserving Your Intellectual Property for Future Generations
In addition to safeguarding your intellectual property during your lifetime, it’s equally crucial to plan for the fate of these assets in the event of your incapacity or passing. This planning is essential to spare your heirs from a potentially lengthy and costly legal battle over the ownership of your intangible assets.
The foremost priority is to ensure that your family can locate and access your intellectual property after your demise, preventing the loss of your work. Once you’ve compiled an inventory of your assets, it’s essential to ensure that your loved ones know how to access this inventory in the event of your incapacity or passing. Your inventory should also specify how each asset is accounted for in your estate plan and whether you share ownership of any intellectual property with another individual or company.
To guarantee that all your assets are appropriately planned for, it’s vital to consult with an estate planning attorney experienced in handling intellectual property matters and safeguarding potential future income generated by these assets for your loved ones. Your attorney should assist you in planning for the inheritance, distribution of value, and utilization of income generated from each asset, all while avoiding protracted and costly probate proceedings.
If you find this process complex, consider the challenges your loved ones would face if something were to happen to you. In fact, it might be virtually impossible for them to manage these matters in your absence, underscoring the urgency of addressing these issues now. By doing so, you can spare your family from the burden of cleaning up these issues after your passing.
Planning for All Your Assets, the Right Way
Even if you’re not yet a famous author, artist, or musician, you likely possess valuable intellectual property that may not have been adequately documented or accounted for in your estate plan. Beyond its financial value, your intellectual property represents unique creations that embody your essence, and your family will cherish them for years to come.
To ensure the protection and comprehensive planning of all your assets, including your intellectual property, we invite you to get in touch with us. As your dedicated Personal Family Lawyer®, we specialize in documenting, assessing, and safeguarding your intangible assets. This ensures that your loved ones can benefit from these creations for generations to come. Schedule a free 15-minute call with us to learn more.
This article is a service of Law Office of Dana Baker, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.
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