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How do intellectual property rights transfer upon death?

If you have created, discovered or built anything in your life, you might own the intellectual property rights associated with that things. Often, we think of these rights as belonging to artists or writers, but intellectual property rights are more expansive than that. Your business brand and logo, scientific discovers and inventions and even the diary you've kept faithfully for decades might all have some type of value associated with them. Whether the value is monetary or emotional, you might want to include these items in your estate planning.

As with physical property, intellectual property can typically be transferred in a number of ways. First, you can include this property in your will. Including intellectual property in your will helps you safeguard your legacy and ensure any value is given to the people you intended it for. You might want to leave personal documents and letters with a trusted relative, for example, or ensure the proceeds from your artwork are shared among your children or other heirs.

If you pass away without a will, then intellectual property will be divided along with other assets by the courts. This usually means following the law and dividing the assets equally among appropriate heirs.

For those with very specific wishes regarding how intellectual property is treated, a trust is not out of order. You can place intellectual property in a trust to safeguard it against activity you don't approve of or keep it from being sold off to pay creditors. How you choose to include intellectual property in your estate depends on the unique situation surrounding you, your heirs and your property. Working with a legal professional can help you understand which options are right for you.

Source: FindLaw, "Estate Planning Issues and Intellectual Property," accessed April 08, 2016

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