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Don't forget your intellectual property in your estate plan

For people who are in lines of work that involve intellectual property, taking steps to protect that property from being used by others without their permission is essential. This can include artistic works like music, art and fashion designs, as well as computer programs and inventions. If you're a famous person, it can even include the use of your photo or other likeness. Intellectual property is generally trademarked, patented or copyrighted.

Protecting your intellectual property after you're gone is also essential. That's why it needs to be included in your estate plan. The untimely death of music icon Prince this year, reportedly without a will, highlighted the complications that arise when it's uncertain what someone wanted done with their intellectual property after their death. For Prince, that included large amounts of music, both published and unpublished, as well as his likeness.

It's important to detail how you want the earnings on your intellectual property to be divided among your heirs and beneficiaries. However, you also want to ensure that the property is properly administered.

One issue in designating your wishes for your intellectual property after you're gone is estimating the value of it. In many cases, it's based on future earnings potential, which can be difficult to estimate. Sometimes, writers' and artists' works increase greatly in value after their death. Others, sadly, may be forgotten once the person behind them is no longer around creating new works and promoting their creations.

Determining who will handle your intellectual property is a crucial consideration. Some people designate a trusted family member who's handling the rest of the estate. Some designate a separate person or entity with knowledge about managing intellectual property to be their intellectual property executor.

Tax considerations are just as important for more intangible assets like intellectual property as they are for assets like real estate, cash and jewelry. A California estate planning attorney who has experience with intellectual property can provide guidance to help you ensure that your work is protected after you're gone and that your wishes for it are carried out.

Source: The Sabetha Herald, "Estate planning for intellectual property," Bob Schumann, Aug. 24, 2016

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